“We’ll be watching:” Leaders say discipline matrix a good start, but want more change

by Katlin Connin | WSBT-TV 22 (CBS, Mishawaka/Michiana)
July 15, 2020

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SOUTH BEND — It’s a vote months in the making.

The South Bend Board of Public Safety approved a discipline matrix for the police department. We spoke with police and community leaders about what the new policy means for the city.

The matrix puts offenses in six categories of severity. Those offenses include improper search and seizure, and harassment against minority groups. Depending on how severe the offense, punishments can range from a warning to termination.

Community leaders say this is a good start, but we have a long way to go.

“We as a people, we want to breathe without a need of racism and injustice strangling us,” said Pastor Claval Hunter of Berean Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

The leaders of Faith in Indiana had their passion on display before the Board of Public Safety meeting.

The religious leaders have been instrumental in lobbying for the passage of the South Bend Police discipline matrix, especially after the police shooting death of Eric Logan just over a year ago. And they’re not done pushing.

“We will be watching. We are forming a committee to monitor the use of this matrix,” said Mother Terry Bays, of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.

And they don’t want to stop with the matrix.

Leaders with Faith in Indiana want to see more funding to social services — like substance abuse assistance and violence prevention.

Pastor Claval Hunter says we can’t expect armed police to fill all those roles.

“That is unfair, unrealistic and too often ends in tragedy.”

He also wants an updated use of force policy.

Mayor James Mueller has promised a draft in the coming weeks. Hunter wants it to include de-escalation policies.

“The use of force should always be a last resort. Force should only be used when necessary, and only after de-escalation efforts.”

South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski says he also wants to see change — including reporting mitigating factors in discipline cases. Currently, only aggravating factors and prior discipline records are included.

“It will always be subject to change and that’s the way it should be because in police work, there is nothing that is predictable whatsoever,” said Ruszkowski.

Faith in Indiana leaders also touched on the police pay raise issue. They say they haven’t taken a stance on that, but say there should be scrutiny on how public funds are spent.

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