SOUTH BEND – After being delayed this year by the forced resignation of its first director and a controversial 2022 municipal budget process that has occupied the mayor and Council members‘ time, the cityEfforts to establish a citizen review board for allegations of police misconduct are once again gaining momentum.
Mayor James Muelleradministration Thursday posted the post of director on the city’s jobs website, and board member Lori Hamann, at the end of the November 8 board meeting, asked board members to “refocus our energies” on selecting people to sit on. a 9-member community review committee.
“Almost two months ago, I sent emails to the members of the district council, and I know that we have all been very busy, but I have not received a response regarding some of the people of interest. among those who applied to your districts, ”says Hamann. “Now that the director position is posted, if we can redouble our efforts and put our energies back to the board and identify those positions, that would be great. “
Each of the six council members will nominate one person from their district, and the three extraordinary members can nominate people from across the city. The whole council will then vote on the candidates.
Council member Troy Warner said on Thursday he had made short phone conversations with a few people from his 4th arrondissement, which covers the city’s northeast. Some applied for the board, and he reached out to a few people who hadn’t applied, but he wasn’t sure who he would appoint yet.
Warner said he wanted to make sure the council thoroughly checks the backgrounds of volunteer council members, in light of what happened with Joshua Reynolds, who City Clerk Dawn Jones hired in May to be the first paid office manager of the new council. A Tribune report, using public documents obtained from the City of Indianapolis, revealed that Reynolds had been suspended seven times in his seven years as an Indianapolis police officer.
As a result of that report, Reynolds had resisted calls from Mueller and board members to resign, and Jones refused to fire him. The council initially wanted the director to be independent from the mayor, since the mayor appoints the chief of police and the Public Security Council, which disciplines the officers.
But with Reynolds and Jones standing, council voted to move the post of director from its office to the mayor’s authority. Soon faced with the certainty that his salary would be lost, Reynolds resigns.
The board has committed to give more careful consideration to the next director, as well as potential board members.
“I told the people I called, the candidates, I was very honest with them, I said I expected we had seen a high level of scrutiny and that they’re being looked at under a microscope by people on the left and right on this issue, ”Warner said. “I said it might even end up in the newspaper and with protesters in their homes. I had a few people, when I told them about this, who decided they weren’t interested. For an unpaid community position, it was just too much for them.
The council will make recommendations on the discipline of officers to the public security council appointed by the city mayor after reviewing the investigations carried out by the paid director of the CRB.
Hamann said she plans to appoint Anne Thacker to the board. Thacker, 64, a former teacher who is currently unemployed, said she was prepared to accept all personal risk if chosen.
“It concerns me, but not enough to say no,” Thacker said. “Maybe that will be the thing that will allow my husband to let me have a dog.”
Thacker, who is white, joked this, but got serious again when describing a moment in the parking lot of a grocery store, just before the 2020 election, when an “older white man” pulled up to give the middle finger to his car’s bumper sticker. . The sticker showed a black woman wearing a Statue of Liberty crown and holding chains that she was breaking. The sticker read, “YOUR VOICE, YOUR VOTE.
“The things that black people go through every day, in this city and elsewhere, I am willing to accept some risk if I can be of any type of voice for what is fair and just,” he said. she declared. “I know the police just have an incredibly difficult job, and I know they’re probably all like carrying secondary trauma to beat the group. But there are serious problems and there are serious white supremacist ideologies that are spreading in our country. If no one speaks, it will continue to happen.
Thacker, a graduate of Adams High School, said she received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in education from Loyola University in Chicago, and taught in public schools from Chicago and South Bend.
She and her husband returned to South Bend in 1997, and she became interested in the matter after attending the community action focus groups on police reforms that Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s administration summoned the day after Eric Logan was shot by an officer in South Bend in June 2019.
After attending some events hosted by Black Lives Matter – South Bend and the Michiana Alliance Against Racism and Political Oppression, Thacker said the alliance asked him to apply.
Board chair Karen White said the board would then decide on the details of how to vet director and board nominees. The board will secure nominations for the city’s director of human resources, interview candidates openly to allow for input from the public – after many people criticized Reynolds’ hiring for the lack of such opportunities. Mueller is committed to hiring anyone recommended by the board.
White said she would like the office and board to be ready to start receiving complaints of police misconduct by mid-March.