Confusion Arises Over Police Training On South Bend's New Use Of Force Policy
Concerns arose recently that South Bend police officers aren’t being properly trained on the department’s new Use of Force policy.
The new policy bans the use of chokeholds, emphasizes deadly force as a last resort and requires officers to report incidences of unreasonable force they've witnessed.
At the Board of Public Safety meeting on Wednesday, a South Bend police officer expressed frustration that officers and their supervisors were being asked to acknowledge the new policy, which passed in January, before receiving formal training on it.
South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski responded by saying the claims raised “grave concerns” for the department.
“Specifically, I need to find out what the root of the problem is, not hear about it later at a Board of Safety meeting when this has all been disseminated and no questions have come up until this point in time,” Ruszkowski said.
In a statement, Ruszkowski said officers are required to undergo use-of-force training at least twice a year. South Bend Mayor James Mueller said that training occurs on a rolling basis, so some officers may not have received training under the new policy yet.
However, he said many of the updates in the new Use of Force policy were to include practices officers were already being trained on, like de-escalation tactics.
“In many ways, our officers had been trained closer to the policy that passed two months ago," Mueller said. "So they should have a good base of knowing appropriate times to use force.”
Ruszkowski said in his statement that officers are "required to ackowledge receipt of all policy updates and have a clear understanding of what the changes entail." He said officers also have the opportunity to seek clarification from their supervisors at weekly command staff meetings, where all policy changes are presented.
Still, the officers’ comments and leaders’ response to them drew criticism from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. Organizers are calling for the mayor to address the situation at the BLM meeting this evening.
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