After months of deliberation and community feedback, the city of South Bend has a new Police Use of Force Policy. The Board of Public Safety approved the policy on Feb. 17 on the condition that it would be updated frequently.
The new policy was first introduced just over a year after Eric Logan, a Black man, was shot and killed by a white South Bend police officer in 2019.
Some community groups recently called for a more specific policy, with examples of what is and isn’t “reasonable” police force. A letter from activist group Faith in Indiana to Mayor James Mueller urging him to strengthen the policy had over 200 signatures before the Board of Public Safety meeting Wednesday morning.
Board member Darryl Heller, who voted not to approve the policy, said prioritizing that concern was worth tabling the policy until changes could be made.
"This is one of the key policies that I think we need to get as right as possible, and I think that the righter we get it, the more trust there will be with everybody within our community,” Heller said.
Other board members expressed similar views, but ultimately decided it was more important to get a new policy in place as soon as possible.
“There’s so many that are unhappy with the current policy that we need to do something to move forward with the understanding that there will be possible changes,” said board member Eddie Miller.
That was the key condition on which the policy passed – that it would be a “living document” subject to updates, revisions and more community feedback.
Board President Luther Taylor gave Mayor Mueller up to 60 days to present the first of those changes to the board.
Mueller issued the following statement in response to the board's vote.
"I thank the Board of Public Safety for taking today's important step and adopting the many improvements to our use of force policy that we have developed with the community over several months. We know there is more to be done and look forward to continue working with the community and Board members to lead in 21st century policing."
South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski also issued a statement following the board's vote.
“We appreciate the approval of the updated Use of Force Policy in order for us to progress from the outdated policy currently in place," he wrote. “We note this is an evolving document (as are most of our policies) and as we have, we’ll continue further and open discussions with our community.”
According to a release from Faith in Indiana, members of the group are scheduled to discuss revisions with Mueller next Friday, Feb. 26.
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