What Mishawaka Police policies tell us about the traffic stop of the mayor’s son

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 5:52 PM EST
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MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - 16 News Now Investigates is looking into Mishawaka Police policy after obtaining body camera camera footage showing the mayor’s son being pulled over.

RELATED: 16 News Now Investigates: Police footage of Mishawaka mayor’s son

One of many questions that remain about the October traffic stop is whether or not Joe Wood, the son of Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood, should have been tested for alcohol.

A responding officer is heard on body camera audio saying that Joe Wood smelled of alcohol and was stumbling. This could serve as the probable cause officers need to begin an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) investigation. To determine if someone has been drinking, officers can consider the physical appearance of impairment or the smell of alcohol— both things that at least one responding officer noted during this traffic stop. Officers can also use field sobriety tests, like having someone walk a straight line or stand on one leg, but these types of tests are not seen conducted in the police footage of the traffic stop.

Officers also could have administered a breathalyzer or chemical test. Under Indiana law, anyone who gets behind the wheel is implying that they consent to these types of tests—though that consent can still be withdrawn during a traffic stop.

The Mishawaka Police policy says “an officer may administer more than one chemical test during the course of an OWI investigation”. It also says “any OWI investigation will be documented” including “the officer’s observations that indicate impairment on the part of the individual”. However, there is no documentation that any tests were conducted when Joe Wood was pulled over in October. The officer’s statement that Wood smelled of alcohol and was stumbling was also not documented.

16 News Now Investigates is also looking into why footage from Captain Eric Beckham, who was seen in the police footage telling officer to leave the scene, was not provided as part of the public records request. The reason given by the Mishawaka Police Department in response to the request says “there are no body worn or mobile vehicle recordings on record for Officer Beckham.”

But this is a surprising reason for the lack of footage when looking at the Mishawaka Police Policy Manual, which clearly states that “Both the video and audio recording functions of the body camera shall be activated whenever a law enforcement officer is responding to a call for service or at the initiation of any other law enforcement or investigative encounter between a law enforcement officer and a member of the public.” We know this traffic stop qualifies as a call for service because the only documentation for it was the call for service report.

Another Mishawaka Police policy on mobile audio and video says “Prior to going into service, each officer will properly equip him/herself to record audio and video in the field.” It says activation of the mobile audio video recording devices on police vehicles is required for both traffic stops and OWI investigations.

Based on the police footage obtained by the 16 News Now Investigates public records request, it is clear that a traffic stop was being conducted for Joe Wood. Officers are also heard referring to wood as “bombed” and saying that he smells of alcohol and is stumbling. When we see Captain Beckham arrive on scene, he tells police to get their cars rolling and says he will “take care of it”. However, it is still unknown why there is no body worn or mobile vehicle footage from Captain Beckham’s response, as 16 Investigates was only told that they were “not on record”.

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