ELKHART — Mayor Tim Neese announced late Tuesday that he will seek an independent review of the policies and practices of the Elkhart Police Department in the wake of video showing officers beating a handcuffed man and reports by The Tribune and ProPublica about the department.
Neese had last month asked the Indiana State Police to conduct a “thorough and far-reaching” investigation to look for any patterns of excessive force in his city’s police force.
The state police declined, saying such an investigation was beyond their purview, and referred Neese to the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department has retreated from such oversight of local departments since the election of Donald Trump as president. Neese said Tuesday that the Justice Department has not responded to three separate inquiries about potential involvement in the Elkhart investigation.
Once Neese selects an entity to conduct the review, that work will be done “in conjunction with Police Chief Ed Windbigler, who will return to the department” Dec. 17, Neese’s statement said.
Windbigler has been serving a 30-day suspension for his handling of the incident in which the handcuffed man was punched 10 times in the face.
In June, Windbigler issued reprimands to officers Corey Newland and Joshua Titus and told the Police Merit Commission the officers “went a little overboard” in taking a suspect down to the ground; the chief made no mention of the punches they threw.
Windbigler also told the commission there were no injuries in the incident, even though the man was taken from the police station in a stretcher. When explaining his decision to issue reprimands, the chief said Newland had “no other incidents in his file, so this is his first incident of any type of force.” The chief did not mention that Newland had previously been suspended six times and reprimanded twice.
Video of the incident was released only after it was requested by The Tribune and ProPublica as part of ongoing coverage of problems with the county’s criminal justice system. Then the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office in early November filed charges against the officers for the Jan. 12 beating.