Consulting firm finds SBPD should clarify use of force policy, mayor stresses officer compensation to implement recommendations

Published: Jul. 8, 2020 at 7:24 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 8, 2020 at 10:53 PM EDT
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The City of South Bend has released findings into a police consulting firm’s study of the South Bend Police Department. Commissioned last October, Chicago-based 21 CP Solutions furnished the 67-page report containing recommendation guidelines focused on six areas: use of force; bias-free policing; body-worn cameras; accountability; community engagement and participation; along with officer well-being, recruitment, retention, and developing the narrative.

“I was pleased to see there was significant overlap with the plan for reforming public safety I put out last fall during the course of the campaign,” said Mayor James Mueller.

In the report, 21CP says the department’s current policy on use of force “blurs the lines of objective versus subjective reasonableness,” adding a recommendation that SBPD clarify officers should only use force when circumstances call for it. A short-term suggestion from the firm for strengthening this policy is to further clarify South Bend police officers are obligated to intervene in a situation if they witness a colleague violating a department policy.

“We’ve announced that hopefully we’ll have a draft up soon in terms of an updated use of force policy,” Mueller said in a Wednesday interview.

Furthermore, the report recommends SBPD have a "standalone policy" requiring officers to use de-escalation tactics, even if a situation ultimately results in an officer utilizing force.

Pertaining to body cameras, 21CP believes the police department should revise its body camera activation policies. As for accountability, the consulting firm thinks the Board of Public Safety should adopt a discipline matrix, which spells out a discipline range if an officer violates a South Bend Police Department policy.

“The discipline matrix will hopefully be adopted at next week’s Board of Public Safety meeting,” he said.

Mueller said officer compensation is an important point of discussion to ensure the South Bend Police Department has the resources to best reflect 21st century policing practices. The department is “double-digit short” officers, reported Mueller. And the 21CP report suggests the City and department may want to see how pay and benefits affect the force’s ability to recruit and retain high-quality and diverse officers.

“You need to have the staffing to have the time and bandwidth to also add training and other community policing - and things like that,” Mueller stated.

F.O.P. 36 Vice President Josh Morgan released the following statement: ”The FOP has read the report and agrees with some of its recommendations. Chiefly, the report recommends that South Bend Officers be paid more so we can better recruit and retain good officers. With additional officers and funding, South Bend police will be able to undergo more high quality training while still having enough officers on the street. We hope the Common Council listens to its own expert and approves the raise and residency increase proposed by Mayor Mueller last month. "

Click here to read the consulting firm’s list of implementation suggestions.

Copyright 2020 WNDU. All rights reserved.

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