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SBPD To Take Over South Bend Investigations From County Metro Homicide, SVU

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South Bend Police Department
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Due to staff shortages, the South Bend Police Department will take over all investigations within South Bend city limits from the County Metro Homicide and Special Victims Units beginning in 2022.

More details are in the releases from the city of South Bend and county prosecutor's office below.

(Read the full release from the city below.)

Today, the City of South Bend announced that effective Jan. 1, 2022, the South Bend Police Department will take over homicide and all major crimes investigations within South Bend city limits from the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit and Special Victims Unit.

"We value regional collaboration and the work provided by these two metro units. We’ve done everything we can to keep them up and running, but we must adapt to our department’s staffing levels, which remain short of where they need to be," said Mayor James Mueller. "This move will create greater staffing flexibility in 2022 and enable us to continue delivering critical law enforcement services for our residents. I have full confidence in our officers, and we will work with our partners in the County and Mishawaka to ensure a smooth transition. Our department will continue to collaborate with the St. Joseph County Prosecutor, St. Joseph County Police Department and Mishawaka Police Department.”

“The South Bend Police Department’s commitment to our community will remain the same and will not be negatively affected by this transition,” said Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski. “The majority of the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit and Special Victims Unit are made up of our detectives and personnel already. All cases will now be ‘in-house’ and the resources of our entire department will be at the disposal of every single victim and their family.

With the combined experience of our detectives, our continued alliance with the Family Justice and CASIE Centers, the YWCA, and our commitment to handling every single case with the utmost respect and professionalism, we are confident this will be a seamless transition.”

Background

In accordance with the interlocal agreement, the City of South Bend provided notice to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office in May that the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) would need greater staffing flexibility in 2022 due to projected officer retirements.

Over the last few years, SBPD has had ongoing conversations with the prosecutor’s office about staffing shortages that would force us to reduce the number of sworn officers in the Metro units. Prior to these conversations, concessions were made reducing the number of officers from 11 to 8 due to staffing shortages within the department. SBPD continued to contribute to this partnership by providing funding for 3 positions within Metro Homicide and SVU. The City of South Bend and St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office were unable to reach an agreement to further modify staffing within the units.

SBPD needs more officers. SBPD currently has 220 sworn officers, 23 short of being fully staffed, and faces several expected retirements at the beginning of 2022.

If you know someone interested in joining the city team and serving our community as a sworn officer, please encourage them to apply at police.southbendin.gov/apply.

(Read the release from St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office below.)

St. Joseph County –Through the County’s two multidisciplinary units, the South Bend Police
Department, the Mishawaka Police Department, and the St. Joseph County Police Department have
combined sworn investigators with the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office to investigate some of
the mostserious crimes in our community (since 1993 at the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit
(CMHU) and since 2003 at the St. Joseph County Special Victims Unit (SVU)). Those crimes include
homicides (investigated by the CMHU), and sexual assaults, molestation of children, physical child
abuse, and domestic violence (investigated by the SVU).
 
Currently, there are 12 individuals assigned to the CMHU: 4 from the SBPD (1 paid for by the SBPD
but hired by the Prosecutor’s office), 3 from the SJCPD, 1 from the MPD and 4 from the Prosecutor’s
office (commander, 2 assistant commanders and a secretary).
 
As well, there are 12 individuals assigned to the SVU investigative wing: 7 from the SBPD (2 paid for
by the SBPD but hired by the Prosecutor’s office), 2 from the SJCPD, 2 from the MPD and 1 from the
Prosecutor’s office (commander).
 
Together, there are 24 individuals assigned to investigate homicides, sexual assaults, child abuse
(physical and sexual) and domestic violence:

  • The SBPD currently pays for 11 positions: 8 sworn officers (33.3%), and 3 investigators paid for by the SBPD but hired by the Prosecutor’s Office (12.5%);
  • The SJCPD supplies 5 sworn officers (20.8%);
  • The MPD supplies 3 sworn officers (12.5%);
  • The Prosecutor’s Office fills 5 other positions (2 Commanders, 2 Assistant Commanders and 1
  • secretary) (20.8%).

Additionally, the Prosecutor’s office wing at the SVU (within the CASIE Center) consists of 5 deputy
prosecutors, 3 paralegals, 2 secretaries and 5 victim advocates.
 
Working within this multidisciplinary framework, despite working these exhausting and heart-
wrenching cases, these two units have been some of the most successful investigative units in the
country, both in holding the perpetrators accountable and getting justice for our victims. I am proud
to be associated with the work they have done for our community.
 
Earlier this year, the SBPD advised me that they would no longer be able to staff those units with their
8 sworn officers. For the past several weeks, we (the SBPD and the Prosecutor’s office) have
attempted to find ways to continue to work together within those units and adequately staff them.
 
We have been faced with challenges like this in the past where departments have had issues filling
vacant positions within those units. However, in those instances, the departments eventually were
able to do so, ensuring that those most horrific crimes were consistently and competently
investigated.
 
In thisinstance, however, the SBPD (yesterday) advised that for the year 2022, the South Bend Police
Department would not be able to staff those units with the 8 sworn officers. It is untenable and
unsustainable for the officers who do the work in those units to do it without adequate manpower.
 
With SBPD’s inability to commit to the 8 sworn officers, we cannot provide the work these cases and
our victims deserve. Therefore, I was advised that the SBPD will withdraw from the SVU and the
CMHU for 2022.
 
While I am hopeful that the SBPD will somehow be able to find a way to adequately staff the CMHU
and the SVU, I am saddened that out of a department of over 200 sworn officers, the City of South
Bend will not remain within the multidisciplinary framework and assign 8 sworn officers to investigate
homicides, sexual child abuse, physical child abuse, rapes, sexual assaults, and serious domestic
violence cases.
 
Regardless, I am committed to the concept of a multidisciplinary framework and will
continue to join with the CASIE Center, the Family Justice Center, the YWCA, other concerned entities,
and law enforcement in seeking justice for our victims.

Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.