South Bend Police discipline matrix approved, faith leaders on board

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 7:11 PM EDT
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A long-awaited decision came Wednesday for some in the South Bend community, as the Board of Public Safety approved the police discipline matrix to provide clarity and accountability if officers violate department policies.

“The adoption of this gives not only guidance but foundation and expectations of not just officers and administration or the mayor’s office but to our community as well, so everyone’s on the same page and knows exactly the same things that would or could occur, should infractions be committed,” commented Chief Scott Ruszkowski.

For the various degrees of infractions, the matrix spells out examples of violations and the presumed disciplinary measures that could be taken, said Mayor James Mueller.

“[The discipline matrix] is a comprehensive look and will lead to consistency and clearer direction to our officers,” Mueller stated.

Joshua Morgan, Vice President of F.O.P. #36, said the police union agrees with the implementation of the matrix.

“We believe, as the F.O.P., that the concept of the discipline matrix is a step in the right direction for the stress of officers in disciplinary matters as well as transparency for the community,” said Morgan.

In terms of alleviating some stress from police, having the matrix shows officers what discipline they can expect if they violate policies, Morgan elaborated.

Chief Ruszkowski and Mayor Mueller called the discipline matrix a “living document,” as it can be improved upon.

Members of the Faith in Indiana-St. Joseph County held a news conference Wednesday, extending their support for the police discipline matrix.

“There’s a saying or a parable that says something like this that, ‘The journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step,‘” said Rev. Gilbert Washington, pastor at St. Paul Bethel Baptist Church. “Today, we are taking a single step.”

Mueller said it’s not yet known which entity will ensure the matrix is complied with. It’s possible the proposed civilian review board could conduct an annual review - or minimally the duties could be assigned to the board of public safety, said the mayor.

Faith in Indiana-St. Joseph County intends to conduct its own independent assessment of the implementation of the matrix.

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