ELKHART — The Indiana State Police have declined a request by Mayor Tim Neese to investigate his city’s police department in the wake of reporting by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica that revealed a handcuffed man’s beating by Elkhart officers and examined the disciplinary records of higher-ranking officers.
Capt. David Bursten, a state police spokesman, said Monday the agency would not participate in the criminal case against officers Cory Newland and Joshua Titus, or in the type of broader review of the Elkhart police that Neese requested last week. He instead suggested that the mayor approach the U.S. Department of Justice.
Elkhart County prosecutors have filed a single misdemeanor count of battery against each officer in the Jan. 12 beating of Mario Guerrero Ledesma.
The prosecutor’s office was “very well engaged” in the case and there was no reason for an investigation by the state police, Bursten said.
The mayor also called Thursday for a “very thorough and far-reaching” investigation by the state police of any patterns of excessive force and “anything that relates to the Elkhart Police Department.” At the time, Neese said he had spoken with Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter about his request. But on Monday, Bursten said in his statement the state police had declined to undertake such a review.
“We typically don’t investigate the operations of other agencies,” Bursten said.
The state police, in an email to the Tribune, said an investigation of civil rights violations “would fall under the investigative jurisdiction of the United States Department of Justice.”
But the Department of Justice, under President Trump, has retreated from that role. As ProPublica’s Ian MacDougall reported last week, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, before leaving the job, signed a seven-page memorandum formalizing the department’s disengagement from investigating local police departments accused of violating people’s civil rights.
Separate from court-monitored decrees and other oversight that might be imposed against a local government’s wishes, the justice department also has a voluntary program to help police departments interested in pursuing reforms. But as The New York Times reported last year, that program, called the collaborative reform initiative, has also been scaled back.