South Bend revises use of force policy for its officers


SOUTH BEND, Ind. — South Bend’s police officers will be banned from using chokeholds under a newly revised use-of-force policy that officials in the northern Indiana city say still needs some tweaking.

The new policy was approved Wednesday by the Board of Public Safety on a 4-1 vote following a debate on whether board members should delay voting.

The revised guidelines will formally ban chokeholds, require officers to avoid deploying force whenever possible by using de-escalation techniques, and require officers to use only the force needed to overcome threats. Officers will also be required to report instances of excessive force.

But the board plans to revisit the policy in two months because board members said it lacks clear definitions of imminent danger, proportional response and what constitutes the use of deadly force.

“This is a great step forward as long as the mayor does come back next month or in two months and put on the table the changes that have been made,” said board member Melissa Colpitts.

Mayor James Mueller said he and his team would work to get the issues addressed within the two month deadline.

Mueller’s administration has worked on the revised policy over the past year following a report from 21st Century Policing Solutions that recommended the South Bend Police Department update its use-of-force policy to include language requiring de-escalation techniques.

The department’s current use-of-force guidelines contain no mention of de-escalation.

Josh Morgan, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the union is generally in favor of the new policy, but plans to speak with police administration about a few definitions included in the guidelines that it finds to be unclear.

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