Police Discipline Matrix: Breaking down what you need to know

By Tana Kelly | ABC 57 (South Bend)
July 9, 2020

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – New details on the South Bend Police Discipline Matrix. Mayor James Mueller presented an updated version at the Board of Public Safety meeting Thursday.

The move comes after months of public input meetings and will allow police officers to be held accountable for their actions.

Now, Mueller presented the 6-tier Police Discipline Matrix last month but has updated it since. The new matrix includes more clarity, increased lookback length and even upped severity for certain actions.

“Enough is enough. And so those sworn to protect and to serve must be held accountable for their actions,” Pastor Claval Hunter, a member of Faith in Indiana said. The group that has consistently called for a discipline matrix to be established.

After months of community input meetings, the new matrix is here. It was presented at Thursday morning’s Board of Safety meeting.

The matrix has 6 tiers.

The first is for minor violations like tardiness, rude comments, and failure to respond to the radio which is met with different levels of discipline according to the number of times violated, from oral reprimand on the 1st violation to 2-day suspension for the 3rd violation.

The second tier has anything from failure to ensure functional recording equipment like body cameras to failure to follow procedures in things like the collection of evidence and can be met with a 5-day suspension for the 3rd violation

The third tier has things like loss of evidence, accidental discharge of a weapon, and improver search seizure or entry and can be met with up to a 10-day suspension for 3rd violation.

The fourth tier has things like improper use of force with no injury and arrest without probable cause and can be met with up to a 60-day suspension for the 3rd violation.

The fifth tier includes improper use of force with injury and racial discrimination and can be met with anything from a 30-day suspension for 1st offense up to termination for the 3rd violation.

The 6th tier has anything from deliberate weapon discharge endangering self and others, to abuse of authority and is only met with termination.

“We do not have to be jumping all over the place, there’s a metric system that is in place and it gives us as an aiding tool, a guiding force in the adminstry of due process,” John Collins the President of the Board of Safety said. “So many times, we as a board have asked that when an officer has come before us or a letter of reprimand, 2 day, 3 day, 5 days, if there was a previous history. We now have a matrix to guide by.”

“It’s a long time coming and you know, it’s a lot of work that went into this. And so it should have happened a long time ago. But we, you know, we are grateful that the mayor and his team took the time to really listen to the, to the voice of the community. And we’re glad that they were able to implement some of their suggestions of about 75 to 80% in this revised matrix,” Hunter said.

However, some are skeptical it will be properly implemented.

Hunter said he wants to see a departmental change soon.

“With the Citizens Review Board, I think that was great to have that because it will help to hold our police department accountable to ensure that the things that they are putting in place a follow-through and, and, and things do happen and so it’s a lot of work, a lot of work still needs to be done there are other policies that needs to be, they need to be revised,” he said.

The city and police department just received an over 50-page report outlining policy changes and will continue to work on that.

As for the Police Discipline Matrix, that’s supposed to be voted on at the next Board of Public Safety meeting on Wednesday.

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