South Bend Police Department wiretapping dispute continues

A long-running dispute over wiretapping within the South Bend Police Department will continue and could go to trial, after city officials rejected a proposed agreement with officers who want to block the tapes’ release.

The South Bend Common Council on Monday unanimously voted to reject any settlement agreement that may have been reached in mediation, The South Bend Tribune reported. The legal battle had cost the city almost $2 million as of September.

Robert Palmer, the attorney representing the council, said both sides couldn’t reach an agreement on how to handle the tapes. He said that since compromise isn’t an option, the fate of the tapes will rest on whether the police department is found to have violated wiretap laws.

The legal fight dates back to 2012, when the council issued a subpoena demanding Mayor Pete Buttigieg turn over the tapes. The mayor’s office refused to disclose the tapes, alleging they were made illegally because the officer whose department phone line was tapped wasn’t aware of the recording.

The police chief and department communications director made the recordings in 2010 and 2011. The contents of the recordings haven’t been made public, but a former police employee has said they include racist remarks and discussion of committing illegal acts.

The four officers who were recorded sued the city over the recordings. Three of the officers want to block the release of the tapes and have them destroyed without a trial. The city has until the end of January to respond to a motion.

If the judge denies the officers’ motion, the case will go to trial.

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