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Council approves budget to hire expert to review South Bend Police Department

The South Bend Common Council unanimously approved spending up to $180,000 Monday to hire independent outside experts to do a review of the police department and restore trust with the community in the wake of a deadly police shooting.

The company, 21cpsolutions, is based in Chicago and would take a close look at South Bend Police Department policies and training for the use of force and body cameras.

One of the founders, Charles H. Ramsey, is a veteran police leader and in 2014 was tapped by President Barack Obama to lead a special Task Force on 21st Century Policing in an effort, "to determine what the problems are and most importantly try to come up with concrete solutions that can move the ball forward,” in the words of the president at the time.

Ramsey is the former Philadelphia police commissioner, leading the department for eight years until retiring at the end of 2015.

He has nearly 50 years of law enforcement experience including serving as police chief in Washington, DC and deputy superintendent in Chicago.

His company 21CPSolutions is very diverse and, according to its website, its mission is to, "assist cities and their police departments in employing best practices for effective, integrity-driven policing that is focused on building trust, strengthening relationships, and community collaboration in public safety."

21CPSolutions has already worked with large departments from Cleveland to Baltimore and Cincinnati, and smaller forces in Sacramento and Grand Rapids where an unusually high number of minorities were being stopped by police.

The group just issued its final report there last year.

Although the budget was approved, response to the decision is certainly divided.

The firm will be hired by South Bend to take a deep dive into police department policies, in the wake of the deadly shooting of car break-in suspect Eric Logan back in June. The officer who pulled the trigger told investigators Logan came at him with a knife, but his body camera was never activated that night.

“In light of recent events and just input from the community. We wanted to engage and it was recommended to us that we speak with a national expert on looking out our policies, procedures, recruiting, training of our police department,” Laura O’Sullivan, the Chief of Staff for Mayor Pete Buttigieg said.

O’Sullivan brought this the idea to the Common Council as a way to show the good in the department.

“To help us amplify all of the good things that we are doing. We know that there are many things the police department is doing that are national best practices,” she said.

As well as the bad.

“We also know that there are probably some things that come back, that they can be improving upon,” she said.

O’Sullivan said the department is okay with the review.

“They are all very welcome to it,” she said.

Chief Scott Ruszkowski told ABC57 News in a statement:

"The south bend police department is made up of highly trained, compassionate and professional officers who go above and beyond daily within our community. We welcome a review that will show what is being done right and where improvements can or could be made.

However, Black Lives Matter Activist Jordan Giger said this isn’t what the city really needs.

“It’s just to sort of absolve certain people of blame,” Giger said.

He said the first step should be dealing with current leadership.

“Before we start spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to do what we’ve already supposedly have been doing,” he said.  “We need to first get rid of people who are in positions of power right now who have made bad decisions.”

With a proposed $180,000 in taxpayer dollars set to pay for the review, some question the cost.

“I think it’s a waste of money. I think that money can be better utilized by putting a – recruiting more officers for our department and increasing our department's numbers overall,” Fraternal Order of Police President, Harvey Mills, said.

He said this type of review should come locally and with a cheaper price tag.

“Someone coming in from outside our own community, I don’t believe is going to have the knowledge of what our community wants,” he said.

The Common Council unanimously approved the hire Monday night but less than 24 hours later Jake Teshka, the only Republican on the council, said he regrets his decision and claims he was rushed into making one.

“I regret this vote from a budgetary perspective but then also just the message that it sends to our police department,” Teshka said. “I refuse to believe that folks aren’t smart enough here that can do some of that same evaluatory work without the high price tag.”

Teshka said he wanted to at least delay this vote because the administration didn’t give a lot of specifics including the scope of the review, but the mayor’s office said this is just the beginning of the process and the price tag is not set in stone.


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