Elkhart County Sheriff's Office

We don't take our power lightly. Here are a few of the ways we hold our officers accountable.

We don't take our power lightly. Here are a few of the ways we hold our officers accountable.

At the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office, we acknowledge the power and authority that comes with being in law enforcement. We honor the badge, but we realize there are “police officers” across the country who tarnish its image with their actions or beliefs. We don’t take our power lightly, and we have policies and procedures in place, so officers are not able to abuse it.

Since the death of George Floyd and the protests that have followed across our country, I have been asked several times about our Office’s procedures. I understand and appreciate the concern of our citizens. The officers involved in the death of George Floyd showed careless disregard for the life of someone they were supposed to be protecting. The actions caught on film were inexcusable, but I can assure our community that what was shown on that sickening video is not reflective of the men and women I have the honor of leading in the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office.

While I cannot speculate on the workings of police departments outside of the one I command, I can assure you that the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Office is committed to treating everyone we encounter with dignity and respect regardless of race or ethnicity.  Racially charged behavior by officers is not tolerated.   I wanted to share with you some of the policies we have in place to hold our officers accountable and ensure we are building trust and partnership within our community.

Hiring Process: We begin with a rigorous hiring process for all staff. Potential employees are interviewed, undergo an extensive background investigation, polygraphs, psychological testing, and approval by our civilian merit board.

Character Core: Most companies hire for competence but fire for character, but that’s a risky approach. Consider any of the recent incidents involving police that have made the headlines. I’d guess that those officers passed their police exams with flying colors, but were there red flags surrounding their character? New employees and officers attend our Character Core training, which focuses on Character, Competence, and Consistency. Character Core is not just a one-time training to our team; their annual performance evaluations and regular feedback also use Character Core. Anytime someone on our team has an issue, we evaluate if it is rooted in competence or character.

Body-Worn Cameras: We equip our officers – both patrol and corrections – with the tools they need to do their jobs. This includes in-car cameras and body-worn cameras for patrol officers and body-worn cameras for all corrections officers. We recently updated our body-worn camera systems; this system activates the camera during specific “triggers.” Our body-worn cameras activate when an officer draws their weapon, when the officer exits their car, or activates their lights and siren. Our supervisors also have the capability to remotely view the officer’s cameras live when they are out on a scene.

Every traffic stop is filmed by both the officer’s body-worn camera and their in-car camera. Our corrections facility is the only I know of, where each corrections officer is issued a body camera. 

Training: Our officers are trained on a regular basis. We believe in treating everyone -- from our co-workers to our inmates and individuals in the community – with dignity and respect. We train our officers in the proper use of force, and we emphasize that it is to never be used to punish a suspect or with malicious intent. Even if force is necessary in a situation, our officers are trained to remain respectful before, during and after the use of force.

We practice de-escalation techniques and learn how to recognize when a person stops resisting. These techniques are taught in all areas of our psychomotor training, including firearms, taser, pepper spray, and emergency vehicle operations.

Crisis Intervention Team: Our office is committed to Crisis Intervention Team training, which creates connections between our own officers, mental health providers, hospital emergency services, and individuals with mental illness. Although the CIT training is designed to equip officers with the background and skills necessary to help a person in a mental crisis, the training can be used to de-escalate any situation. CIT addresses suicide prevention, de-escalation, addictions, and substance abuse and how to handle special populations, including senior citizens, juveniles, and veterans.

Culture: If any of our officers are witness to an injustice happening or an officer being inappropriate, we expect them to step in. We have been clear that we will stand by any officer who intervenes in a situation where they witness something wrong happening. We also encourage anyone who has felt they have been treated poorly or unfairly by one of our officers to contact us, speak to a supervisor, and file a complaint. We take these complaints very seriously – because, as we’ve learned recently, lives can depend on it.

At ECSO, we want citizens to feel relief when we get to a scene – not panic. Our intent is to help build a stronger community.

I have been in law enforcement for nearly 30 years, and I take pride in being your Sheriff. I understand my profession affords me both power and authority. When I took my oath of office in January 2019, I also accepted the responsibility of this position. I do not take it lightly.