Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese has announced he will seek an independent review of the policies and practices of the Elkhart Police Department regarding police discipline and use of force.
The intent of the review is to reaffirm the credibility of the Elkhart Police Department and produce findings and recommendations to generate positive change where necessary.
Upon selecting an independent entity to conduct the review, they will work in conjunction with Police Chief Ed Windbigler, who will return to the department effective Monday, Dec. 17, following a 30-day unpaid suspension issued by the Mayor. The Elkhart Police Department has indicated they are not opposed to an independent investigation into the operations of the Department.
“Officers are expected to perform their duties in a professional manner. I, however, recognize that use of force is part of law enforcement and is often necessary,” Neese said. “While it is a job that can be rewarding, it is also an occupation that is dangerous, demanding, and stressful. This independent review will help to ensure that when policies are violated, we provide additional training and discipline, as appropriate, to maintain public trust in our police department.”
Neese also announced that at the Dec. 11 meeting of the Board of Public Safety, the police administration will recommend that civilians be added to the Department’s proposed Use of Force Board. These civilians would handle sensitive information concerning the police department and should be impartial and objective. This board will review all police use of force incidents to ensure that their actions were appropriate and consistent with policy and training. They will also work in conjunction with the Police Merit Commission, responsible for hiring, promotion and discipline within the Department.
“The majority of police officers who serve this community do so nobly and with the highest level of professionalism,” Neese said. “This has been a disappointing and very unfortunate situation, but it has created an opportunity to improve the Elkhart Police Department.”
The administration has made three separate inquiries to the Department of Justice regarding their potential involvement, but at this time, the administration has not received a response.