Faith leaders say South Bend use of force policy doesn’t go far enough

By Max Lewis | WSBT 22 (CBS, South Bend)
Feb. 11, 2021

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A long back and forth on South Bend’s revised use of force policy all comes down to a critical vote next week.

The city’s Board of Public Safety will vote on that policy — but some of the city’s faith leaders are urging them reject it. They feel it doesn’t go far enough.

After Eric Logan was shot and killed by a South Bend police officer in the summer of 2019, the city began the process of reforming its use of force policy that has included several drafts and public input. But after all that, some of the city’s faith leaders don’t think it’s ready.

“The policy as we see it is insufficient,” said Pastor Gilbert Washington.

The group, Faith in Indiana, has been one of the major forces behind the changes. While the policy currently emphasizes de-escalation and puts deadly force as a last resort, they say the circumstances when deadly force is acceptable are still too ambiguous.

“If they don’t know what to do and when to do, then it becomes a prerogative. And we don’t want the police acting on their own prerogative,” said Washington.

The policy uses the standard of reasonableness which was developed by the U.S. Supreme Court, and basically asks whether an officer with similar training in a similar situation would’ve done the same thing.

“How do you know what is reasonable if you don’t set a standard,” said Rev. Terri Bays.

But leaders with Faith In Indiana want Mayor Mueller to go beyond that and clearly spell out when force can be used and ban things like shooting a fleeing suspect.

“I have not heard a theory of the case where if we went beyond, outside of that standard, that we would be on solid legal footing,” said Mayor James Mueller.

Mayor Mueller argues they have no legal way to do that and says this policy could be subject to changes as they come about.

“This is one of many pieces that needs to come together to really accomplish the goal that we’re all committed to getting to.”

The mayor says he’s in the process of responding to some correspondence he’s received from Faith in Indiana. He believes the policy does have the highest threshold possible for use of force.

It all comes down, though, to the Board of Public Safety, which will vote on the policy at their meeting next Wednesday morning at 9:15.

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