South Bend PD takes the guesswork out of officer discipline

By Mark Peterson | WNDU Channel 16 (NBC, South Bend)
Dec 18, 2019

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) – The city of South Bend is poised to lay down the law where its law enforcement officers are concerned.

It’s hoped the development of an officer discipline matrix will help restore community confidence in the department.

“This allows the community to know that if there are certain kinds of offenses that take place, that police officers will be held accountable,” said Andre Stoner with Faith In Indiana. “It’s been very arbitrary and inconsistent when a police officer engages in an offense.”

Under the matrix, officers would receive oral reprimands for things like being tardy, losing their badge and failing to upload their video recordings.

Lying on a report, failing to report an accident and sexual harassment would result in a 30-day suspension for a first offense and termination for a third offense.

“For specific types of infractions, it lists particular disciplines for it,” South Bend communications director Mark Bode said. “The more severe the infraction, the more severe the discipline.”

Under the matrix, a first offense of improperly using force and causing injury would result in a 30-day suspension.

The matrix was the result of one field trip to the police department in Tucson, Arizona, and several community meetings held by the outgoing Buttigieg administration.

“We wanted something deliverable by the end of the year that residents could see, OK, the participation in these meetings had concrete results,” Bode said. “So, although the final approval is going to be into the new year, they have something they can go through now and comment on.”

The South Bend Board of Safety on Wednesday accepted the matrix but did not approve it. The matrix will now be the subject of a public comment period that runs through Jan. 10.

Bradley Laird was not critical of the matrix but was adamant that more action is needed to address community confidence in the department.

“The matrix has the weakness of all discipline of not having an avenue to restore relationship, right relationship, in a restorative justice process,” he said. “That can be a separate thing that is considered later on but something I would hope to see.”

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