Local activist group upset with new city hire

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- The South Bend Common Council introduced the city's very first Community Police Review Board Director, Joshua Reynolds, last week. The move came after a years' worth of public meetings, discussions and interviews to create the board and determine who fits this role best.

Back in March, Black Lives Matter South Bend hosted a discussion with over 80 residents, including council members to discuss the process.

“Elected official Dawn Jones she believed in what the community was engaging her on, she believed that we needed to have, you know transparency because what we see in the city is that there’s a generation divide,” Black Lives Matter South Bend member Katheryn Redding said.

During this meeting BLM said the city clerk agreed to be “completely transparent” and include the community in every step of the hiring process. But two weeks ago, on May 18, activists learned the new role was filled without any further discussion or public meetings.

The decision coming not only as a shock, but also a disappointment to local activists.

“We were left out in the dark. You know? We didn’t, what we put into this deal was real, something was really real that we put together for real accountability you know and the community was left out in the dark,” Redding.

Because of the way the hiring happened, Black Lives Matter wants to start over.

“For me, I think we need to go back to the drawing board and have an open honest discussion about who are we putting in these positions to be directors,” Redding said. “We want transparency. We want to sit with these people who are being interviews and we want to talk to them and see what their stakes are in the city and what was their work before then that brought them to this position to have the ability to have the competency and compassion to deal with the complaints coming in.”

BLM South Bend will be hosting a virtual public meeting to discuss the topic of reversing the hire on June 24, with hopes city officials will join the conversation.

ABC57 reached out to city officials for comment, but we have not received a response back yet.

Joshua Reynolds starts in his new role officially next week.

Dawn Jones released the following statement:

I appreciate the passion and perseverance of BLM in their pursuit of change. It is through such passion for justice that we are at this point today. Our country and our community suffers every day from the effects of systemic racism and BLM is on the forefront of battling it. I do not take lightly my part in this effort to eradicate racism in our community and hold law enforcement accountable while improving the important work of keeping communities safe. As I have stated from the beginning with conflict comes growth. I anticipated community members, activists and law enforcement, would object to the hiring of a director of the brand-new Community Police Review Board. Although we may differ in methods and processes at the end of the day, we are on the same page, which is to eradicate systemic racism and transform our community. To accomplish this hefty goal, we must begin to work together toward our common goal with the person we have in place—Director Josh Reynolds. The Common Council is beginning the important work of appointing members for the Community Police Review Board and now has a director with whom they may work to advance the goals of Ordinance No. 10721-20. With the paradigm shift we are seeking, there will be many differences in opinion and approach. I look forward to Director Reynolds beginning this important work, starting first and foremost with listening to the community. I am honored to be in the position to help bring change and I realize that will not come without its challenges.

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