SOUTH BEND – It’s been a tumultuous year so far at the South Bend Police Department. WSBT wondered how the rank and file are dealing with the wiretapping fallout. How is morale, and what effect, if any, is it having on public safety?
It all started about five months ago, with a federal wiretapping investigation into the department's telephone recording procedures. That led to the resignation then demotion of the police chief and firing of the communications director. Now, it’s grown into the threat of potential lawsuits against the city.
Last week, St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Commander Tim Corbett, three South Bend police officers and the wife of an officer filed tort claim notices against the city because of phone calls related to the wiretapping situation.
Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Noonan says it's causing more of a distraction right now rather than bringing down morale.
Noonan says most officers aren't involved in the tapes that caused the investigation and most don't know a lot about it. When officers respond to calls, Noonan says they're able to clear their minds and keep the public and themselves safe.
“Police are a funny lot,” said Noonan. “Because of their jobs, they’re used to being in control of situations. That’s how they’re taught at the academy that they have to have a command presence. When everything is going crazy around you, you have to be the one to keep a level head. So as part of that, officers tend to not like change and tend to not like the unknown.”
Noonan says a lot of the "unknown" has to do with not knowing who the Mayor will appoint as the next Police Chief.