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“A Bad Start,” Activist Says — New South Bend Police Review Board Dir. Had 7 Suspensions As Indy Cop

new_sbpd_officers.jpg
Justin Hicks
/
WVPE
Several new SBPD officers are sworn in during 2019.

According to a July 8 article in the South Bend Tribune, Joshua Reynolds — the recently hired director of South Bend’s new Community Police Review Board — had seven unpaid suspensions during the seven years he was an Indianapolis police officer.

In Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department records obtained and published by the Tribune, Reynolds’s suspensions ranged from one day to 13 days:

 

  • Sept. 23, 2009: One day. “Warrantless forced entry into a home without probable cause that a felony has been committed.”
  • March 27, 2013: One day. “Failure to maintain police vehicle by allowing it to run out of gas while driving.”
  • March 29, 2013: One day. “Failure to improve performance and posting derogatory comments about department personnel on social media.”
  • July 23, 2015: Three days. “Failure to respond in a timely manner to a priority police run and expedited request for back-up from a fellow officer.”
  • Oct. 8, 2015: Ten days. “Sustained citizen’s complaint for using rude and demeaning language about the complainant’s juvenile daughter on social media.”
  • Nov. 23, 2015: 13 days. “Failure to improve performance and follow remediation plan after multiple disciplinary measures, specifically failure to mark inservice and respond to radio runs.”
  • July 24, 2016: “Recommended for discharge. Failure to improve performance and follow remediation plan after multiple disciplinary measures, specifically failure to mark inservice and respond to radio runs.”

 
Jorden Giger, an activist with Black Lives Matter South Bend, said that it’s “a bad starting point” for the board.

 

“We question how we can trust him to lead cultural competency training when he’s called 12-year-old girls inflammatory names, and when he’s illegally entered a home,” Giger said. “To me, these are egregious violations and they should have been disclosed much sooner.”

 

The Tribune reports Reynolds commented “basic bitches in training” on a Facebook friend’s post of a photo showing her 12-year-old daughter and a friend holding hands and posing at a Starbucks.

 

“I’m not even going to try and justify it — it was wrong,” Reynolds said. “When I realized that the joke I was trying to make was incredibly harmful, insensitive and hurtful, I immediately reached out to that parent and apologized.”

 

Reynolds, who has two daughters, said he understands why the suspension causes concern.

 

“I would be very upset if someone made a comment about my daughter like that,” he said. “If she hasn’t forgiven me, I understand.”

 

As for the illegal entry into a home, Reynolds said it was a mistake he made in the first year on the job.

 

“I was in a foot pursuit with someone, and they slammed the door behind them as they were going into the house,” Reynolds said. “My understanding of the law at the time — and I could be wrong — was that if I am in active pursuit, I can still make entry.”

 

He said that applies to a misdemeanor, but that he was “unaware that for departmental policy, it needed to be a felony.”

 

Reynolds said most of the suspensions were due to things he did wrong — and that he takes responsibility and has tried to make amends.

 

“We’re not talking about use of force complaints here. We’re not talking about criminal allegations against me, anything of that nature,” he said. “When we talk about holding officers accountable, I was held accountable.”

 

But he alleged that he faced retaliation and harassment for reporting a fellow officer for ghost employment — or clocking in while not working — in 2013.

 

“I reported it to a supervisor, and immediately the next day I was taken off the team,” Reynolds said. “I’ve got this reputation now that I’m ratting on other officers for their misconduct, which in this case was criminal misconduct. Nothing was done.”

 

Reynolds also alleged that in 2015, he complained about a supervisor's behavior and was transferred to another district.

 

“They were instructed to find any violation and write me up for it,” Reynolds said, citing typographical errors, not polishing his boots and not having the right button on his shirt. “Things that are never done for anyone else.”

 

He said he reported his concerns to human resources, and eventually filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After an investigation, he said the city paid him a cash settlement where he agreed to resign and not file a lawsuit. He left the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department in 2017.

 

Activists had previously expressed concerns over Reynolds’s hiring and said they should have been more involved in the process.

 

“It was so open and transparent initially, we’re having this series of meetings for ten months,” Giger said. “And then as soon as it came time to select a director, all of a sudden it was this closed-door hiring process.” 

 

During a June 24 discussion hosted by Black Lives Matter South Bend, City Clerk Dawn Jones — whose office is in charge of the board and hired Reynolds — said all final four candidates had a law enforcement background and Reynolds’s selection was approved by the common council.

 

“We had 40 applicants, and I would say 70 percent of those applicants were in law enforcement,” Jones said during the meeting. “So, that’s what we had to work with.”

 

When contacted for comment, Jones said she was not aware of Reynolds’s suspensions before he was hired, but that she still supports him and wants him to lead the board.

 

“Josh has been candid with me — he hasn’t withheld any information,” Jones said. “I don’t take anything in regard to the CPRB lightly.”

 

Jones said that the board is “valuable to the community” and she’s there to support it.

 

“We want to continue to encourage people to apply to the board,” Jones said. “I hope this isn’t a scare tactic of people that are applying to the board, you know, if you apply to this board we’re coming after you too.”

 

Giger said BLM South Bend has invited Reynolds to participate in a Zoom forum in early August.

 

“Trust is earned, it’s not guaranteed — and that’s really on him, to prove himself,” Giger said. “We have to have confidence in him, and presently we don’t have confidence in him.”

 

Reynolds said he’s definitely open to participating.

 

The board is still taking applications for membership. Submissions close on July 23, and the review and selection of applications will take place from July 26 to August 6. Board members will be announced in early August.

 

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

 

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here.

Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.