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Former South Bend Officers File Appeal In Police Tapes Case; Want To Prevent Public Release

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

 

A group of former South Bend police officers is asking the Indiana Court of Appeals to step in and prevent the long-contested police tapes from being released.

 

Back in May, St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Steven Hostetler ruled that the officers lacked legal standing in the case and that the tapes could be turned over to the Common Council once all appeals were resolved.

 

But according to a brief filed Monday, the former officers say Hostetler shouldn’t have denied them standing, citing four errors including the timing of recordings and a settlement clause.

 

Even though the officers took a cash settlement from the city, they argue that the settlement contract contained a clause that specifically allowed them to challenge the release of the tapes.

 

They are also asking the court to force Hostetler to rule whether the recordings were illegal, which he declined to do in May.

 

The tapes issue goes back to 2011, when a former SBPD communications officer came across recorded phone calls from the line of an officer who didn’t know they were being recorded.

 

The Common Council has been fighting in court since 2012 to force the city to hand the tapes over. Allegedly, the tapes contain recordings of racist comments and discussion of illegal activity. 

 

The officers have sought to block release of the tapes, arguing that the recording violated their privacy and state and federal wiretapping laws.

 

But even if the tapes are turned over to the council, it’s still unclear if they can legally be played or released to the public.

 

"There has not been a judicial determination of whether the recordings were made legally or illegally," Hostetler wrote in his May ruling. "There has similarly been no judicial determination as to whether or not the tapes, once they are produced to the council, may legally be listened to, disseminated or published in any way."

 

The former officers are Brian Young, Sandy Young, Tim Corbett, David Wells, Steve Richmond, Sheldon Scott, James Taylor and Scott Hanley. 

 

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

 

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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.