ELKHART — At least three members of the Common Council say they would support paying a private firm to investigate the city’s police force if the U.S. Department of Justice declines to conduct a review in the wake of a video showing officers beating a handcuffed man and reports by The Tribune and ProPublica about the department.
Mayor Tim Neese 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. But the Justice Department, which has retreated from oversight over local police departments, may not take on the job.
Without help from the state or federal government, some Common Council members say they would support an outside investigation by a private firm — similar to the city’s approach in 1994, when the city commissioned experts to study the police department after a civil rights trial that resulted in verdicts against five officers.
One council member, Richard Shively, a Republican, says he is unsure how long the council would wait for the mayor to act.
“We’re all trying to be patient. We believe this is in the mayor’s hands at this point, but we’re not happy with the results,” Shively said. “My hope is that the mayor will do his job and find out what condition his police department really is in.”
Another Republican councilman, David Henke, believes a majority of the nine-member council “would facilitate some money for an investigation to happen. We’re getting to the point we must because DOJ is not going to look at this.”