by Max Lewis | WSBT-TV 22 (CBS, Mishawaka/Michiana)
July 9, 2020
The South Bend Police Department could have new discipline guidelines in place as soon as next week.
Mayor James Mueller presented the final version of the police discipline matrix to the Board of Public Safety today. Reporter Max Lewis looked into what changes were made and what conflicts could arise.
After presenting a redesigned version of the police discipline matrix last month, Mayor James Mueller solicited additional public input and he got it.
“These are more minimal changes than the ones from January to June,” said Mueller.
Most of the changes included making punishments for some offenses more severe, like loss of a gun for improper search and seizures.
The discipline matrix breaks down offenses into six levels from the most minor to the most severe. It then spells out what punishments will be for each violation that can go anywhere from a warning to termination.
Mueller says based on feedback, he thinks they have a solid document.
“We’re starting to get the comments where some people say it’s still not strict enough and then we’re starting to get comments where people are saying it’s too strict. So when you’re starting to hear that feedback on both sides you feel that maybe we’ve found that right balance,” said Mueller.
The new matrix also specifies harassment or discrimination against minority groups based on race, sexuality and several other classes. Mueller says the FOP had input on the document, and likes that everything is cut and dry.
“They like the idea that there is clarity in terms of what to expect if you do violate policy.”
But a big question that still needs answers is how the matrix will work with the South Bend Common Council’s proposed Citizen Police Complaint Board. Mueller says state law dictates the police chief and board as the only disciplinarians.
Max Lewis: “Is this just a show thing, something for show? Because if they have no power, then what’s the point?”
Mayor Mueller: “I would not say that it’s just for show. There are roles that you can play other than just being the ultimate decider on discipline.”
Mueller also emphasized that the matrix would be a living and breathing document that may require changes as problems come up.
We did reach out to Faith In Indiana who had been one of the biggest backers of the matrix, but never heard back.
The Board of Public Safety will take up the matrix at their meeting next Wednesday.