SB council discusses police expert, puts ban of handheld devices on hold

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - The South Bend Common Council put aside $180,000 to hire a consultant to assess the South Bend Police Department’s operations.

Chuck Ramsey, a nationally known policing expert, would come in, look at the police department, and review their practices and procedures, including community engagement.

The assessment would not involve an investigation.

The mayor’s office said the police chief welcomed this.

“Our police officers do an incredible job, and maybe we are not always getting that word out there as well as we can. So, we are hopeful they can help with that, and then also if there are some areas of improvement, then they will point those out as well,” chief of staff Laura O’Sullivan said.

While the mayor’s office said this assessment did not have to do with any particular event, they said there has been more of a push to do something like this after the latest officer-involved shooting.

Also happening at Monday night’s meeting, the common council decided to continue its discussion until Sept. 23 on a proposed ordinance banning the use of handheld devices while driving.

The council president said while most council members support the measure, they do have some concerns, including timing, if they are enough police to enforce the law and how would people be held accountable if caught.

"If someone is texting, you almost have to do a warrant to their phone. So, what we want to do is really do a public statement with it and to have people understand safety comes first. We are going to go beyond the school zones here; this would be a citywide ban,” South Bend Common Council President Tim Scott said.

The ban would not apply to hands-free technology in your car, provided that technology could be activated or deactivated with the touch of a single button.