SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has uncovered police bodycam video showing the head administrator of 5 South Bend Schools asking a South Bend Police Officer to leave Coquillard Elementary School during a standard community walk-through. The incident happened just before 9:30am on April 21st, the day after former Minneapolis Police Officer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder in the George Floyd case.
It is standard practice for officers to walk through schools, businesses and other public areas in their beats. This practice is to deter crime and build relationships within the community.
In the video, Dr. Cheryl Camacho, the CEO of the South Bend Empowerment Zone (an organization that is in charge of 5 South Bend Schools) approaches the officer as he walks down the hallway.
“Just walking through? What’s going on?” She asks the officer.
“Uh, just making sure you guys are safe.” He replied.
“Okay.” Camacho said, followed by a long, awkward pause. “I know we had an incident yesterday with a student. Okay. Is that what you’re talking about?”
“That, but I mean this is just the area I work. So, I’m just making sure you guys are okay.” He said.
“Okay. Alright. Yeah. We’re fine. We’re good.” She told the officer in a suspicious and condescending tone.
“Do you like us coming in?” He asked.
“Um, if I know the scope of what you’re doing. So you’re just walking through right now? And, are you like, what like, what is, what do you do? Do you connect with the kids? What do you do?”
“Just make sure you guys are okay. Peace keepers”
“Okay, yeah. Um, who can I talk with just about that? In terms of our building because I don’t think that, have you been here before this year?”
The officer then refers to another adult in the hallway who he knows.
“Well, we know each other.” He said.
The other unidentified school employee then explains that the officer has been coming to the school for years.
“I mean, if it makes you uncomfortable having us walk in, then you’re welcome to call the Chief’s office and just ask us not to come.” The officer told Camacho.
“Okay, yeah. And it’s not that, I wouldn’t say blanket uncomfortable. We’re just breaking from a lot of past practices to the prior years.” Camacho explains.
In the video you can see artwork on the walls of raised black fists, synonymous with the Marxist Black Lives Matter organization and Critical Race Theory teachings.
Black Lives Matter South Bend has recently been pushing to remove police officers from local schools. Just yesterday the organization posted the following flyer to its Facebook page.
A spokesperson for the South Bend Community School Corporation sent RNM the following statement:
As a point of clarity, the Empowerment Zone is an autonomous entity with separate leadership, a separate board of trustees, and its own policies and procedures. Dr. Camacho does not report to Dr.Cummings but to her board, whose Chair is Sam Centellas, so I can’t speak to what is being taught in the Zone schools. That is a question for Dr. Camacho.
The South Bend Community School Corporation fully supports the presence of Security Resource Officers in our schools, and we will continue to do so; we currently employ four SROs. Additionally, South Bend Community School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings is in regular communication with both Mayor Mueller and Chief Ruszkowski of the South Bend Police Department.
I hope this helps clarify the distinction between the SBCSC and the Empowerment Zone.
RNM also sent the following questions to the Empowerment Zone Board Chair, Sam Centellas, but has not heard back as of publication.
|1) Do you support Dr. Camacho banning police from the schools and does policy allow it?|
2) What is school policy with law enforcement partnerships?
3) Is Critical Race Theory being taught at any South Bend Schools? Is Critical Race Theory being taught to elementary students? Is it an Empowerment Zone teaching?
4) Are South Bend Schools teaching students to hate or distrust law enforcement?
5) In the video, Dr. Camacho claims she is going to contact the chief to talk about policy. Did that conversation ever happen? What was the outcome?
South Bend Chief of Police, Scott Ruszkowski, tells RNM he has not seen the video, but he is aware and SBPD is in the process of evaluating the incident. The chief also said he has not talked Dr. Camacho since his officer was kicked out of the school. He also explained it is standard procedure for officers to do periodic walk-throughs at area schools.
As CEO of the Empowerment Zones, Camacho is in charge of Navarre Middle School and the four elementary schools that feed into it; Coquillard, Harrison, Warren and Wilson.
The South Bend Empowerment Zone was created in 2019 to help the struggling schools listed above. It has its own independent board. According to the South Bend Community School Corporation, Camacho oversees the zone’s academic goals, budget and leadership.
This story has been updated from the original version to include additional information provided by the chief of police.