Dec. 21, 2021
The interlocal partners of the St. Joseph County Police Department, Mishawaka Police Department, South Bend Police Department, and St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office have reached a tentative agreement to modify the interlocal agreement which forms the St. Joseph County Special Victims Unit.
In this modification, while the multi-jurisdictional Special Victims Unit will continue to investigate and prosecute child physical and sexual abuse, child neglect and exploitation, and adult sex crimes, the individual jurisdictions will investigate matters involving domestic violence.
The new interlocal agreement adjusts staffing requirements for the partner agencies to alleviate ongoing staffing shortages at the South Bend Police Department. Mishawaka Police Department and St. Joseph County Police Department will provide one officer each to the unit. SBPD will provide two sworn officers to the unit and provide funding for three additional positions within the unit. Those additional positions will be hired by the St. Joseph County Prosecutors Office. The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office will continue to provide deputy prosecuting attorneys and support staff for the unit, along with the Commander of the Investigative Unit.
In response to this continuation Sheriff Bill Redman, states “I am happy to announce this continuance of the multijurisdictional SVU framework for these most serious of crimes. The County Police Department has been preparing and is ready and take on investigation of domestic violence incidents that will now fall outside SVU scope. Additionally, the creation of our domestic violence response services team earlier this year gives County Police the ability to get services and support assistance to domestic violence victims within 48 hours, if not immediately.”
“Keeping the Special Victims Unit to investigate adult sexual crimes and crimes against children allows officers from the county’s largest law enforcement agencies to collaborate in the most effective fashion, increasing the likelihood of victims getting justice. I am pleased that the SVU will continue its work to the benefit of residents throughout St. Joseph County,” said Prosecutor Ken Cotter.
“We are pleased and confident with this new agreement that we will be able to continue to offer the highest level of professional investigations and attention to these most serious crimes against victims,” said Mishawaka Police Chief Ken Witkowski. “We will continue to collaborate with joint jurisdictional investigations. We want to assure the community that the seriousness of these crimes will get the utmost priority.”
“Not only do these types of crimes have a significant physical and psychological victim impact, but are very unsettling to our community as a whole,” South Bend Chief of Police Scott Ruszkowski explains. “Our commitment to investigating and solving these sensitive crimes remains as strong as ever. Our department’s contributions will undoubtably help provide victim/survivor justice, and ideally prevent future incidents.”
The Mishawaka Common Council approved the agreement on Monday evening. The St. Joseph County Council and South Bend Common Council will consider the new agreement at upcoming meetings.
“We are grateful for our partners’ willingness to work with us as SBPD navigates its current staffing challenges,” said Mayor James Mueller. “The Special Victims Unit provides important services and expertise to our community, and I am glad to see this partnership continue.”