7/8: Fight between man, Elkhart police officer causes community tension
7/9: After Garfield Avenue fight between police and man, cellphone video offers more details
7/11: Elkhart residents, ministers and police to meet over Garfield incidents
7/11: After Garfield Avenue fight, Elkhart Police consider launching internal affairs investigation
7/12: Editorial: Elkhart police, West Garfield residents need to establish trust in one another
7/14: The Place Where You Live: What happened on West Garfield Avenue is a societal problem
7/16: West Garfield residents say they have reasons not to trust Elkhart police
7/16: Advocacy group Nine Blocks will focus on Elkhart neighborhood's needs
8/7: Data shows Elkhart police beefed up Garfield Avenue presence after attack on officer
8/14: No proposals sent to Elkhart Mayor over policing practices
8/14: Elkhart Community Roundtable suggests hiring more minority police officers, using vest cams, sensitivity training in wake of Garfield Avenue turmoil
8/15: Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore questions support for Roundtable proposals
8/15: Ferguson, Mo., shooting, Elkhart's Garfield Avenue incident share distrust between police, community
8/16: Editorial: Unrealistic demands create the possibility of another Ferguson here in Elkhart
8/18: Adrian Riley steps down from Elkhart Roundtable activities
8/19: Call for diversity training raised at Elkhart council meeting
8/20: Neighborhood pride and stigmas both fill daily life for South central Elkhart residents
8/20: Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore will address Garfield incident Friday at news conference
8/20: Elkhart police set for changes; Pflibsen will retire, Koch to be sworn in
8/22: Blog: In wake of assault on Elkhart police officer, Garfield Avenue deserves justice too
ELKHART — Following complaints about police relations with south central city residents, Mayor Dick Moore embraced the idea of using vest cams and other initiatives aimed at improving relations between residents and officers.
In a news conference Friday morning, Aug. 22, Moore critiqued many of the proposals set forth by the Elkhart Community Roundtable, including vest cams, and also condemned some of the language used by police that was caught on video on July 3.
Moore estimated the cost of purchasing vest cams would be about $40,000.
”I believe it's good for the officer and the public,” Moore said.
“We can find the money,” he said.
Vest cam reactions
Two community leaders expressed satisfaction with Mayor Dick Moore’s proposals, including the use of vest cams by officers.
Jason Moreno, a community organizer employed through LaCasa Inc., applauded plans to embrace vest cams.
The vest cams provide accountability to everyone involved, Moreno said.
“It’s definitely a move in the right direction,” Moreno said.
He said he looks forward to definitive decisions by the administration.
“The ground has been tilled and now we can start to grow some serious relationships,” Moreno said.
Rod Roberson, a city councilman and a leader of the advocacy group, Nine Blocks, said the use of vest cams was “tremendous and long overdue.”
But he also cautioned that the devices should not be viewed as a panacea.
“Nothing takes the place of a relationship,” Roberson said.
“What I like the most is that the administration is willing to sit down and say, ‘I’m anxious to hear different voices and better ways and I’m open to these ideas.’ ”
He said he’d welcome more minority officers, but more importantly, the city needs officers who want to build relationships with the community.
Moore’s comments come seven weeks after tensions arose following an attack on an Elkhart police officer on Garfield.
Neighbors contend they saw an immediate spike in patrols that brought with it claims of harassment. They say it was in retaliation after a crowd that watched the attack declined to intervene.
Police say the increased patrols were driven by calls to the department, but residents said that wasn’t true — a look at dispatch records show many of the incidents were officer initiated.
Moore said Friday he approved additional patrols in the area.
Some of the complaints stemmed from traffic stops in the area.
Moore said he considers traffic stops to be one of the most effective crime fighting tools available to police.
He understands some see the stops as a form of harassment while others see it as enforcing the law.
“When it makes sense, we will step up patrols and surveillance in any area,” he said.
Moore said an internal investigation was not launched because no complaints were filed, but officials looked into the circumstances and determined the officer who was attacked — Cpl. Dustin Young — should have immediately left the scene after the fight.
A video taken by a civilian shows both officers and a large crowd swearing at each other.
Moore said he informed police officials that officers need to verbally help calm the situation when confronted with a hostile situation.
“I cannot accept the profanity and tone used by (officers) at West Garfield,” Moore said.
However, Moore seemed to show mixed emotions on the circumstances, saying Young should have left the scene, but added, “who can blame him.”
He was also critical of comparisons of Elkhart to Ferguson, Mo., where a young man was shot to death by police, leading to more than a week of protests and violence.
“This is not Ferguson,” Moore said, adding that he was shocked at the comparison.
Unlike Ferguson, Elkhart police quickly quelled the situation and that nobody was injured other than the officer.
Two public forums were held following the July 4 weekend incidents on Garfield to provide an opportunity for resident to address some of their concerns. Moore, in turn, said he would consider changes.
The roundtable also called for increased minority hiring in the police department, more diversity training and more community policing.
Even though officers already receive diversity training, Moore said they are open to the idea of more training and will look for sources to provide it.
He added that his information shows past community efforts to improve relationships have not been successful but city will keep looking.
He further said bringing diversity to the department is easier said than done. Without a legal ability to offer incentives to minority groups, Moore said, it’s difficult to attract a diverse group of applicants.
On Friday, he appealed to any minorities interested in police work to apply.
Another suggestion offered last week was the establishment of a code of conduct. Moore said the existing code could altered and that it could be more effectively publicized through the city website and Facebook and other means.
Last week, Moore avoided critiquing proposals offered by the roundtable. While he endorsed several ideas Friday, he pointed out the group’s list had put the onus on police.
Moore said Friday the problem is bigger than just police solutions and needs to be addressed with a collective approach.
“We’ve got to get together and find a resolution,” he said.
With that in mind, Moore also said he wants to meet with representatives of the roundtable as well as Nine Blocks and local ministers to see what else can be done.
Elkhart Truth Reporter Sarah Duis contributed to this report.