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South Bend police tapes to be turned over to common council

Updated: May. 10, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A ruling issued Monday promises to put the so-called South Bend Police tapes into the hands of city council members, although that won’t happen anytime soon.

The ruling bars the transfer until the other side exhausts all avenues of appeal. “We told the court before the order was entered there were going to be appeals. The common council was planning on appealing, we’re planning on appealing,” Attorney Dan Pfeifer told 16 News Now.  “All we have wanted since we had the trial in federal court was a determination, a resolution as to the legality of the cassettes.”

The judge wrote that the ruling was “incomplete,” in that “there has not been a judicial determination of whether the recordings were made legally, or illegally.  Furthermore, there has not been “no judicial determination as to whether or not the tapes, once they are produced to the council, may legally be listened to, disseminated or published in any way.”

Today’s decision was based solely on standing.  Three police officers who sued to block the release of the tapes were found not to be on the tape-recorded phone conversations in question--therefore they had nothing to gain or lose by the tapes being released.

“I’m glad that, at least, we’re through in the trial court level and moving to the appellate court level,” said the attorney for the South Bend Common Council, Robert Palmer. “Under Indiana law the council has the right and a duty to investigate any city departments or employees if the need arises, and that’s what they did.  There was an unexplained demotion of the chief, and an unexplained termination of the communications director, and a lot of rumors swirling around both of those, and the council decided it needed to issue a subpoena to try to get to the bottom of it.  After eight and a half years, at least we’ve gone another step.”

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