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UPDATE: SBPD Pulls Out of Homicide and Special Victims Unit

South Bend Mayor James Mueller

UPDATED NEWS RELEASEs FROM THE CITY OF SOUTH BEND AND THE ST. JOSEPH COUNTY PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE CAN BE SEEN AT THE BOTTOM OF THE STORY.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned Mayor James Mueller has decided to pull the South Bend Police Department from a county-wide partnership that tackles specialized crimes. The SBPD will no longer be part of the Metro Homicide Unit or the Special Victims Unit, ending a partnership with the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office that started in 1993.

RNM confirmed SBPD’s departure from the county arrangement from multiple sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

RNM has reached out to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office, Mayor James Mueller’s Office and Chief of Police Scott Ruszkowski. RNM is still waiting for official responses from all three.

SBPD has been plagued with staffing issues, which ultimately could be the reason for the departure.

Sources tell RNM, SBPD and Mayor Mueller have been doing all they can to continue the partnership with the prosecutor’s office within their staffing constraints. However, requested concessions have been denied by prosecutor Ken Cotter.

“This is handing South Bend to the criminals.” Former MHU Commander, Tim Corbett, said. “This is the beginning of a upward tick in homicides and shootings and a downward tick in solving them.”

Corbett was the commander of the homicide unit for more than 17 years. He blames the end of the partnership on politics.

“We have great policemen who want to do great things, but they’re beat down by politicians. That’s why the numbers on SBPD have diminished.” Corbett said. “This began years ago with Pete Buttigieg as far as I’m concerned. He brought in criminals and gave them a seat at the table. He wants police to capitulate to criminals.”

“What this city needs is a strong, crime-fighting Mayor. Someone to put a stop to it. Stop making excuses for criminal behavior. Stop lying to the citizens about statistics. Stop lying to the citizens about how safe of a community it is.” Corbett continued. “It was an honor and privilege to serve with the officers of this community. But, I’m embarrassed by the lack of courage by the administration. This town is going to be Little Chicago if this decision is not reversed.”

UPDATE:

Nearly 3 hours after RNM broke this story, the City of South Bend sent out the following news release.

SBPD TO TAKE OVER ALL INVESTIGATIONS IN SOUTH BEND

Today, the City of South Bend announced that effective Jan. 1, 2022, the South Bend Police Department will take over homicide and all major crimes investigations within South Bend city limits from the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit and Special Victims Unit.

“We value regional collaboration and the work provided by these two metro units. We’ve done everything we can to keep them up and running, but we must adapt to our department’s staffing levels, which remain short of where they need to be,” said Mayor James Mueller. “This move will create greater staffing flexibility in 2022 and enable us to continue delivering critical law enforcement services for our residents. I have full confidence in our officers, and we will work with our partners in the County and Mishawaka to ensure a smooth transition. Our department will continue to collaborate with the St. Joseph County Prosecutor, St. Joseph County Police Department and Mishawaka Police Department.”


“The South Bend Police Department’s commitment to our community will remain the same and will not be negatively affected by this transition,” said Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski. “The majority of the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit and Special Victims Unit are made up of our detectives and personnel already. All cases will now be ‘in-house’ and the resources of our entire department will be at the disposal of every single victim and their family.


With the combined experience of our detectives, our continued alliance with the Family Justice and CASIE Centers, the YWCA, and our commitment to handling every single case with the utmost respect and professionalism, we are confident this will be a seamless transition.”


Background

In accordance with the interlocal agreement, the City of South Bend provided notice to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office in May that the South Bend Police Department (SBPD) would need greater staffing flexibility in 2022 due to projected officer retirements.


Over the last few years, SBPD has had ongoing conversations with the prosecutor’s office about staffing shortages that would force us to reduce the number of sworn officers in the Metro units. Prior to these conversations, concessions were made reducing the number of officers from 11 to 8 due to staffing shortages within the department. SBPD continued to contribute to this partnership by providing funding for 3 positions within Metro Homicide and SVU. The City of South Bend and St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office were unable to reach an agreement to further modify staffing within the units.


SBPD needs more officers. SBPD currently has 220 sworn officers, 23 short of being fully staffed, and faces several expected retirements at the beginning of 2022.


If you know someone interested in joining the city team and serving our community as a sworn officer, please encourage them to apply at police.southbendin.gov/apply.

Update 2:

The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office sent out the following news release late Thursday night.

Statement Regarding CMHU and SVU from Prosecutor Ken Cotter

St. Joseph County –Through the County’s two multidisciplinary units, the South Bend Police
Department, the Mishawaka Police Department, and the St. Joseph County Police Department have combined sworn investigators with the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office to investigate some of the most serious crimes in our community (since 1993 at the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit (CMHU) and since 2003 at the St. Joseph County Special Victims Unit (SVU)). Those crimes include homicides (investigated by the CMHU), and sexual assaults, molestation of children, physical child abuse, and domestic violence (investigated by the SVU).

Currently, there are 12 individuals assigned to the CMHU: 4 from the SBPD (1 paid for by the SBPD but hired by the Prosecutor’s office), 3 from the SJCPD, 1 from the MPD and 4 from the Prosecutor’s office (commander, 2 assistant commanders and a secretary).
As well, there are 12 individuals assigned to the SVU investigative wing: 7 from the SBPD (2 paid for by the SBPD but hired by the Prosecutor’s office), 2 from the SJCPD, 2 from the MPD and 1 from the Prosecutor’s office (commander).

Together, there are 24 individuals assigned to investigate homicides, sexual assaults, child abuse (physical and sexual) and domestic violence:
-The SBPD currently pays for 11 positions;
o 8 sworn officers (33.3%);
o 3 investigators paid for by the SBPD but hired by the Prosecutor’s Office (12.5%);The SJCPD supplies 5 sworn officers (20.8%);

The MPD supplies 3 sworn officers (12.5%); The Prosecutor’s Office fills 5 other positions (2 Commanders, 2 Assistant Commanders and 1 secretary) (20.8%).The SJCPD supplies 5 sworn officers (20.8%);The MPD supplies 3 sworn officers (12.5%);The Prosecutor’s Office fills 5 other positions (2 Commanders, 2 Assistant Commanders and 1 secretary) (20.8%).
Additionally, the Prosecutor’s office wing at the SVU (within the CASIE Center) consists of 5 deputy prosecutors, 3 paralegals, 2 secretaries and 5 victim advocates.


Working within this multidisciplinary framework, despite working these exhausting and heart-wrenching cases, these two units have been some of the most successful investigative units in the country, both in holding the perpetrators accountable and getting justice for our victims. I am proud to be associated with the work they have done for our community.


Earlier this year, the SBPD advised me that they would no longer be able to staff those units with their 8 sworn officers. For the past several weeks, we (the SBPD and the Prosecutor’s office) have attempted to find ways to continue to work together within those units and adequately staff them. We have been faced with challenges like this in the past where departments have had issues filling vacant positions within those units. However, in those instances, the departments eventually were able to do so, ensuring that those most horrific crimes were consistently and competently investigated.


In this instance, however, the SBPD (yesterday) advised that for the year 2022, the South Bend Police Department would not be able to staff those units with the 8 sworn officers. It is untenable and unsustainable for the officers who do the work in those units to do it without adequate manpower. With SBPD’s inability to commit to the 8 sworn officers, we cannot provide the work these cases and our victims deserve. Therefore, I was advised that the SBPD will withdraw from the SVU and the CMHU for 2022.


While I am hopeful that the SBPD will somehow be able to find a way to adequately staff the CMHU and the SVU, I am saddened that out of a department of over 200 sworn officers, the City of South Bend will not remain within the multidisciplinary framework and assign 8 sworn officers to investigate homicides, sexual child abuse, physical child abuse, rapes, sexual assaults, and serious domestic violence cases. Regardless, I am committed to the concept of a multidisciplinary framework and will continue to join with the CASIE Center, the Family Justice Center, the YWCA, other concerned entities, and law enforcement in seeking justice for our victims.

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