DOJ returns police tapes to city, will not investigate - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

DOJ returns police tapes to city, will not investigate


The Department of Justice has returned tapes of phone calls from the South Bend Police Department to the City of South Bend, but says they will not investigate what is on the tapes.

The city sent the tapes to the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ to investigate claims they could include contain "racially charged and defamatory statements about the former South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins." Boykins was demoted earlier this year.

Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin sent a letter to the city attorney saying "there is insufficient evidence that the tapes contain any evidence of federally prosecutable criminal conduct."  The staff at the DOJ says they did not listen to the tapes before returning them to the South Bend city attorney.

The South Bend Common Council has subpoenaed the tapes. Council members met in executive session on Wednesday evening.  Spencer Walton, an attorney representing council, said they did review the letter from the DOJ.  Now council members have more questions surrounding this new letter and the tapes.

Council President Derek Dieter said the Council found out about the letter just before meetings on Wednesday.  "The entire council is digesting it."  They have questions on, "when this letter got to the administration and time it was shared to the council," said Dieter.

It's just the latest incident surrounding the tapes that's causing strain between the council and the mayor.   The letter is dated August 27th.  So the council is wondering why they just found out about it. In an email the Mayor's office tells FOX28 that it first learned about the letter Tuesday and got in touch with the Department of Justice to send a copy.  The mayor's office is "working to determine if the letter was misdirected the first time or was not properly routed internally."

But that doesn't solve everything.  Dieter said, "another question we asked where is the box and who has access to it?"  He's talking about the box the tapes are in.  There's speculation the original letter is in the mysterious box sent by the D-O-J.  But the mayor's office still hasn't opened the box.  Then there's the issue of the Council's subpoena to the Mayor's office.  The council is demanding Mayor Buttigieg release the tapes.  The mayor sent a request to Federal Court to make a declaratory judgment on whether the tapes can be released.

Now Spencer Walton, an attorney representing the council,  said he has no idea how long it will take to get a judgment from the federal court on the tapes.  He said the mayor still needs to respond to the council on the subpoena.  "It's causing unrest in our communities.  It's putting officers at risk on the street.  It's getting worse before it's getting better," said Walton.

Walton said if the Mayor still hasn't responded by September 13th then they can file a motion to compel discovery of the tapes.

The Mayor's office said they will be releasing the statement about the letter from the DOJ.

On Thursday, August 31st, Mayor Pete Buttigieg asked a federal count to decide whether or not the tapes can be released to the council.  He says no one from his office has listened to the tapes.

You can read the complete letter from the DOJ here.


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