Former Mishawaka officer speaks out about traffic stop of mayor’s son
MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WNDU) - A former Mishawaka police officer is speaking out after Mayor Dave Wood’s son was pulled over in October.
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This officer, whose identity we are concealing, planned to serve the city of Mishawaka for his entire law enforcement career. But after putting 20 years in, he says his plans were cut short.
“There was a traffic stop that occurred that was handled in a way that could be questionable,” he explains. “The initial officer approached me before i had exited my car, and advised me that it was the mayor’s son and he was intoxicated. He stated he was ‘bombed’.”
The supervisor that evening- Captain Beckham- was notified of the stop.
“Because he was the ranking officer i wanted to keep him apprised of the situation,” says the former officer.
But when Beckham arrived on scene, he told other responding officers he would “take care of it”, even though Wood was not tested to see if he had been drinking. When asked if a field sobriety test should have been conducted, the former officer said this:
“Based on the statements that were made by the officer that was um, made the traffic stop, I believe so.”
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He tells us he was a little taken back by the traffic stop ending with no repercussions or any further investigation.
“I don’t think discretion should’ve been used there,” he says. “I think that’s a situation where you have to do your job.”
He cites a separate incident where a driver was allowed to leave a traffic stop despite the suspicion the driver had been drinking.
“What kept coming to mind was the incident that happened at another agency where an individual was taken home, he was able to return to his car, and there was a tragic accident that could have been avoided,” says the former officer. “We have to live with those decisions, and that’s not a decision O would want to have to live with.”
He tried to talk to Police Chief Ken Witkowski to let him know what happened the night of the traffic stop.
“I wanted it to be known hey, this is how things are being handled. This is what’s representing you as an administration and, whether it was taken seriously or not, I don’t know. That conversation spread through the department and I was ostracized for that. Like I said, I was called out for doing what I thought was right.”
The hostility that he says followed led him to change his career plans.
“It left me with really no choice but to retire because I wasn’t going to work under those conditions,” he explains.
He believes the workplace hostility stemmed from the traffic stop and how it was handled. But despite retiring, the conflict didn’t end.
“Officers retirees specifically are allowed to use the facilities to work out in the gym and have been granted access. I received a certified letter advising me my access was revoked pending an internal investigation. Since I’m no longer employed and I’m a retiree, I was a little surprised,” he says. “I think it was retaliatory for bringing to light the incident that occurred.”
He says this all happened because he spoke out.
“This all stemmed from me providing the details of what happened that night and some other details with what goes on at the department to the chief.”
Still, he has no regrets. When asked if he would do anything differently he said:
“Absolutely not. I did what I knew was right and that’s what i took an oath to do and that’s what I’ll continue to do in the future.”
Still, he’s concerned about a lack of accountability at the Mishawaka Police Department.
“I don’t think accountability is held equally across the board. I think that that’s an issue. And I think it will continue to be an issue until changes are made,” he explains. “Otherwise you’re going to have situations arise where people aren’t treated equally.”
Despite the many questions that remain after the mayor’s son was pulled over, this now retired officer says that shouldn’t reflect on the many hard-working men and women at the Mishawaka Police Department.
“I think the citizens need to know that they can trust the officers on the road. The officers are out there working their beats, they’re patrolling, they’re looking to be proactive and not reactive—and I think that’s what makes a city safe.”
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