Officials present ‘discipline matrix’ for South Bend police officers

by Caroline Torie, WSBT 22 South Bend (CBS)
Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019

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The procedure for disciplining South Bend police officers might change soon.

For the first time on Wednesday, the city presented the Board of Public Safety with what’s called a “discipline matrix.”

The city says it’s taken a lot into consideration to create the draft, from other cities using similar protocols to meetings with the police department and Fraternal Order of Police and community members,

Some are generally pleased with how the document looks now — but the FOP is concerned that more time is needed to get it right.

“It is a step in building trust,” said Andre Gingerich Stoner, Faith in Indiana. “It is a step in accountability. It’s not all that’s needed, but it’s an important step.”

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

“That’s transparency for the community and for officers to better understand and have a benchmark of what to expect if there are certain infractions that go against the duty manual,” said Mark Bode, City of South Bend Communication Director.

City leaders say the matrix was inspired by one in use at the Tucson Police Department.

“We also collected best practices from departments around the country and those also informed it,” said Bode. “We also checked of course with the police department command staff, as well as the FOP.”

But FOP #36 Vice President Joshua Morgan says today’s draft presentation came sooner than expected.

“We feel that it is being a little rushed,” said Morgan. “We haven’t had a lot of time to go over everything. It was kind of a basic rough draft when it was presented to us.”

He says the FOP has no problems keeping police accountable.

“We don’t have grievances with the discipline matrix at all,” said Morgan. “We just want make sure that it’s done right and fair.”

He looks forward to contributing more input before a discipline matrix is adopted by the Board of Public Safety.

“I’m hoping we could have a few more meetings so that we can iron out some of the details,” said Morgan.

The last day for public input is January 10. Public input should be emailed to bps@southbendin.gov.

The Board of Public Safety is planning on adopting a final version at its first meeting in 2020.

The board is also updating the department’s body camera policy. Chief Ruszkowski said there will be a “new layer of oversight” with “random reviews.”

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