South Bend Police Review Board Director Talks Next Steps, Answers Questions In Town Hall Meeting
During an August 2 town hall meeting, embattled South Bend Community Police Review Board director Joshua Reynolds said that over the past month, he’s met with the city, the South Bend Police Department, the Fraternal Order of Police and several community organizations. He’s also spoken with police review boards in Oakland, Berkeley and Cincinnati to help develop the board’s process in South Bend.
But Reynolds was also asked how he can serve as an effective director without the support of South Bend Mayor James Muller. The mayor has said several times that Renolds should resign following revelations that he was suspended seven times during his work as an Indianapolis police officer.
In response, Reynolds said that as long as he has the support of clerk Jones and the community, he will stay as director because the work of the board is a “sacred mission” that can’t be delayed further.
“If I did step down, then the creation of this office really comes to a screeching halt for months — and I’m not okay with that,” Reynolds said. “I’m going to keep pushing forward on this until this is in place and it’s operational, we have a fully trained board and staff and we are addressing the complaints of the citizens.”
Mueller cannot fire Reynolds, as City Clerk Dawn Jones oversees the Community Police Review Board office.
But Harvey Mills, a retired South Bend police sergeant and the president of the city’s police union chapter, asked if the board was needed in light of Mayor Mueller’s statement during last week’s state of the city address that the police department only received 36 complaints out of 96,000 calls in 2020.
“It sounds like right now, we’re already talking about spending a lot of money on this board,” Mills said. “Do you expect the number of complaints to go up dramatically?”
But Reynolds said the board’s goal is accountability, and that it will be a fair, independent and transparent office.
“There are several people in this city that feel the police department is doing a great job internally, that they have a just system and they’re fair,” Reynolds said. “That said, there’s a significant portion of the city that does not believe you, and that’s what we’re here to help address.”
“We’re not just here to get on a witch hunt for officers,” he added.
Jorden Giger, an activist with Black Lives Matter South Bend, said the board is needed because people “don’t trust” reporting complaints to SBPD’s Internal Affairs division.
Vernado Malone, an activist with Justice for Michiana, agreed. He said he’s received three complaints in the last two months and reached out to Internal Affairs, but nobody returned his phone calls.
“Some people are afraid to speak up to the police department because nothing will be done,” Malone said. “When you make a complaint to the police department, those complaints are unheard.”
The board has launched its Facebook and Twitter pages, is planning to launch its website and has developed a budget and a list of needed equipment.
All nine board members, as well as Reynolds, have guaranteed slots in this fall’s citizens police academy.
Next steps include working with the city’s IT department to develop a complaint management system — the board wants to take complaints online and in person through community offices — and planning more community engagement.
“We need to have the board in place, the process in place, the staff in place and the budget in place so that we can be successful in addressing complaints,” City Clerk Dawn Jones said.
Reynolds is participating in a Wednesday evening town hall with Black Lives Matter South Bend.
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