Faith leaders push for ‘discipline matrix’ involving South Bend officers to become reality

by Caroline Torie | WSBT 22 (Mishawaka, Michiana)
Monday, Jan. 13, 2020

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There’s new support tonight for a new discipline policy for South Bend police officers.

The city of South Bend submitted a proposal for a “discipline matrix” to the Board of Public Safety in December. Faith leaders want this proposal to become reality.

The group Faith in Indiana believes a clear, consistent and fair structure for officer discipline is needed and says it’s long overdue.

The local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police is also in favor of a discipline matrix, but they say the document isn’t where it needs to be yet.

Representatives from 15 local congregations and community groups say they strongly affirm the “discipline matrix” as written.

It lays out specific penalties that officers could face after an infraction. The more severe the violation, the higher the penalty.

“The police discipline matrix is clear,” said Pastor J.B. Williams, St. Joseph County Faith in Indiana. “It is fair. It calls for increasingly serious consequences for repeated offenses.”

The process of creating the document began under the administration of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, inspired by one in use at the Tucson Police Department.

When city leaders presented it to the Board of Public Safety in December, they said it will provide consistency and transparency for both the community and police department.

Williams says the current state of officer discipline is inconsistent and arbitrary.

“This contributes to a crisis of trust between police and the community,” said Williams. “It is critical that the police and the community know that there are clear guidelines in place to address situations of police misconduct.”

President of South Bend’s Fraternal Order of Police Harvey Mills says he wants discipline to be fair and officers to be held accountable, and he’s in favor of clear guidelines of this kind.

But he doesn’t believe the matrix is ready because the FOP still needs to meet with the Mueller administration and chief of police.

“Right now, the way the matrix is written it gives that it’s pretty much flexibility over anything,” said Mills. “So it’s almost kind of pointless to have a matrix if the chief can then override it anytime he wants.”

Mills says the FOP is continuing to look at other cities with similar policies.

A spokesperson for the mayor says he will ask the Board of Public Safety to table the proposal to allow for more input.

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Photo courtesy WSBT-22