ELKHART — Mayor Tim Neese said he has yet to contact the U.S. Department of Justice to request an investigation of the Elkhart Police Department to address allegations of excessive force.
A day earlier, an Indiana State Police spokesman said the state law enforcement agency had declined the mayor's request to conduct such an investigation and suggested the city approach the Justice Department.
Neese said one of the city's attorneys is looking into the feasibility of getting the Justice Department on the job but that nothing had been confirmed. The DOJ may well decline such a request, as it has moved away from investigating police departments under the Trump administration.
"If they're not going to do it, then I'm not certain we have many other options. We'll just follow up with what we already looked into," Neese said.
A town hall meeting, which took place Tuesday evening at the High Dive Park Pavilion, had more people than chairs. Many were eager to ask questions and to show their unhappiness with the police and mayor — or the way the police department is being treated.
Many criticized Police Chief Ed Windbigler for his handling of the case and his leadership of the department. Windbigler was not at the town hall.
Neese did not directly answer a question after the meeting about whether he has faith that Windbigler is the best person for the job.
"At this point everyone is being assessed in terms of their involvement with regard to the video," he said.
Assistant Chief Todd Thayer, the highest-ranking officer at the event, was critical of the reporting that lead to the release of a video showing Cpls. Cory Newland and Joshua Titus beating a handcuffed man, Mario Guerrero Ledesma, to the ground.
"Our department has been shamed by this, and to what purpose?" he said. "October last year we started getting public information requests from this reporter we'd never heard of, Christian Sheckler. Who is this guy?"