Our Opinion: Any answers, finally, on the South Bend Police Tape Affair? | Notice
The infamous “police tapes” are back in the news, with the fate of a case due to be tried last week at stake.
Like so many others in this community, we were hoping for a resolution to a controversy sparked by the discovery of secretly taped phone conversations of former and current South Bend police officers.
You can’t blame anyone who is skeptical about the possible end of the long-running drama. After all, it’s been nine years since the tapes led to the demotion of then-police chief Darryl Boykins and the firing of former police communications director Karen DePaepe. Since then, there have been years of litigation and millions of taxpayer dollars spent on legal fees, all unresolved.
The South Bend Common Council has moved to have the tapes released, as former and current officers seek to prevent the tapes from being disclosed. Officers believe the conversations were illegally recorded under federal wiretapping laws.
The back and forth that characterized this case continued last week, when St. County Superior Court Judge Steven Hostetler discussed the illegal activities.
If Hostetler believes agents have standing, the case will go to trial, which is set to begin on Tuesday, where a jury will decide whether the tapes in question can be made public. If it turns out that the officers do not have standing, the trial will be canceled. It is not known whether or not the judge decides that the tapes can be released to the public at that time.
Through it all, we pleaded for full transparency and the public broadcasting of the tapes within the parameters of the law. This case has taken a heavy toll on the community, fueling a feeling of suspicion and mistrust. As we said in a 2014 commentary, “The problems will not go away and the community will not budge until the facts are revealed”.
At the end of Thursday’s hearing, Hostetler noted that this case “has been going on for a long time and it is important to get the right answer, not the quick answer.”
For the sake of the public, we hope that the answers it deserves will finally arrive.