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Council member, SBPD sound off on police diversity gap

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A back-and-forth regarding the South Bend Police Department's minority representation heated up Wednesday.

Councilman Henry Davis, Jr., sent out a news release Tuesday, stating, "It has become increasingly apparent that the City of South Bend needs to change their hiring practices," adding the police department boasts a "10% minority representation."

Davis, Jr., called for change: "It is clear we need a profound change in recruitment policies and practices."

"The numbers don't suggest we're doing anything to make up for lack of diversity within the department," he told WSBT on Wednesday.

A public response came a few hours later, from police division chief Scott Ruszkowski.

He writes to Davis, Jr.:"What have you done [ever] to promote or have input concerning a "minority recruitment program"?Answer: NOTHINGHow many minority, or how many recruits of ANY race/ethnicity/gender have you brought to the police recruitment process this past year?Answer: ZERO. Not one!!"

The last line of Ruszkowski's email reads, "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

Ruszkowski was not available for an on-camera interview Wednesday, but reaffirmed his sentiments over the phone.

But Davis, Jr., says it's not his job to deal with police recruitment, pointing out that SBPD has its own recruitment department.

"I don't think there's a matter of what I am or am not doing - it's what needs to be done," he says.

Sgt. Dan Demler, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, says the department recognizes the racial diversity gap.

"We want diversity," Demler says.

Which is why, in January, the city still begin offering cash incentives for police officers who bring in candidates.

"If a current officer recruits someone in, if they can make it through the process and become a sworn South Bend police officer, that officer will get a stipend at that time," Demler explains.

Demler adds the Common Council backed this program, passing it 8 to 1 in October. The only council member to vote against it was Davis, Jr.

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