The city of South Bend announced Thursday it will withdraw its police officers from both the County Metro Homicide Unit and the Special Victims Unit starting next year.
The multidisciplinary units have been in place since 1993 and 2003 respectively, and investigate homicides, sexual assaults and domestic violence cases, among other things.
According to the prosecutor’s office, South Bend sends eight officers to CMHU and pays for three more. The county police send five, Mishawaka sends three and the prosecutor’s office supplies five positions.
As far as SVU, the prosecutor’s office says it supplies four positions. The county police sends three officers, Mishawaka sends one and South Bend sends four, but pays for one more hired by the prosecutor’s office.
South Bend Mayor James Mueller said Friday staffing shortages are to blame for South Bend’s withdrawal from the units. He said the SBPD is currently short more than 20 officers, and expects several retirements at the beginning of 2022.
“This move enables the flexibility necessary for us to get through what we expect to be a bit of a challenging year for SBPD in terms of staffing levels,” Mueller said.
Mueller said the city explored the possibility of financially supporting more positions without sending officers, but other departments involved with the units determined that it wouldn’t work.
South Bend officers in CMHU and SVU will take over major crimes and homicide investigations within South Bend city limits starting Jan. 1, 2022.
“The South Bend Police Department’s commitment to our community will remain the same and will not be negatively affected by this transition,” Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
Both Mishawaka Police Chief Ken Witkowski and St. Joseph County Sheriff Bill Redman announced their intentions to transition their CMHU and SVU officers back to their respective detective bureaus Friday.
County Prosecutor Ken Cotter declined to be interviewed Friday, but said in a statement he’s “saddened” by South Bend’s decision.
“It is untenable and unsustainable for the officers who do the work in those units to do it without adequate manpower,” Cotter said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
All four departments said they would continue their multidisciplinary work with the CASIE Center, the Family Justice Center and the YWCA.
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