Report: Elkhart Police Department must track use of force

A northern Indiana city’s police department has a reputation for the rough treatment of residents and offending officers are seldom held accountable, according to an external review conducted following the release of video showing two officers repeatedly punching a handcuffed man.

The assessment of the Elkhart Police Department conducted by a former federal prosecutor was made public Thursday, the South Bend Tribune reported.

The review, led by former U.S. Attorney Deborah Daniels, now a partner at Krieg DeVault in Indianapolis, notes improvements made by Mayor Tim Neese, who ordered the study and named a new police chief in January after his predecessor resigned under fire.

The former chief downplayed the actions of the officers in the video, who have been charged with federal civil rights crimes.

“The former chief’s near-abandonment of discipline is said to have been intended to build morale, which he felt was low when he arrived; but it appears to have injured both the public reputation of the department and the morale of its officers,” the study said.

Recommendations included in the review include better tracking of officers’ use of force and complaints against them and developing an “early-warning system” for officers involved in a high number of such incidents. The study also said the department should examine racial bias within its ranks, since black residents comprise about 15% of Elkhart’s population but account for about 40% of cases involving use of force.

Neese said at a news conference that the focus of the process “has been about transparency,” adding: “Transparency is what the public will continue to receive.”

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