Mayor picks group for police review

File photo Officers Cory Newland and Joshua Titus were recorded on tape in a Jan. 12, 2018, incident, when they punched a handcuffed suspect to the ground. The release of the video caused scrutiny of the Elkhart Police Department and evenutally led to the resignation of the police chief.

ELKHART — Mayor Tim Neese is asking the Elkhart City Council to fund a $150,000 review of the Elkhart Police Department following allegations of police brutality and cover-up, which led to the forced resignation of former Police Chief Ed Windbigler last year.

According to the proposal, which will be presented to City Council on Monday, Feb. 11, the review would be led by Deborah J. Daniels, a former U.S. assistant attorney general who is now a partner at the law firm Krieg DeVault LLP.

In 2017, Daniels conducted a review of the policies and practices of USA Gymnastics following the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, according to Krieg DeVault. 

Should City Council approve the proposal, Krieg DeVault would contract the Police Executive Research Forum. According to its website, the forum "helps to improve the delivery of police services through the exercise of strong national leadership; public debate of police and criminal justice issues; and research and policy development."

The non-profit, for instance, helps law enforcement agencies implement use of force reform, according to its website. 

The scope of the Elkhart review will include on-site interviews and focus groups, review of complaints against police department personnel and the department's disciplinary process, a culture assessment of the department and reviews use of force, and the accountability, investigation, documentation and training related to use of force, according to Krieg DeVault.

The final report will outline ways in which the department is performing well, provide recommendations to generate positive change where necessary and acknowledge any proactive policies the department has already put in place, according to a news release. The final report will not name individual officers nor specific incidents but rather focus on the department’s overall systems, policies and training, and provide recommendations for improvement where needed.

Krieg DeVault said that it would conduct the review over a period of nine months but provide preliminary findings to the city after three months. 

City Council President Brian Dickerson, R-at large, said he has already had an opportunity to speak with Daniels, and he supports the plan.

"I understand that it's a high cost, and I have been critical of that somewhat, but in order to make sure that we're protecting the liabilities that the city has, we're going to need to demonstrate that we are capable of having the appropriate training, experience and policy at the police department," Dickerson said.

He expects that the review will also demonstrate the good that the police department does, and that it is a "great department."

According to Neese's proposal, the plan also has the support of Police Chief Chris Snyder and local Fraternal Order of Police President Jason Ray.

"This $150,000 request represents less than 1 percent of the Elkhart Police Department's $20.5 million annual budget," Neese said in his request to City Council. "It is a small price to pay to ensure this invaluable department is providing the highest level of service to the citizens and the City of Elkhart."

Money for the review would be appropriated from the Riverboat Fund. The ordinance will have a first reading at the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.

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