SOUTH BEND — A South Bend police officer accused of sexually assaulting two women in separate incidents in September was placed on administrative leave without pay during a special meeting of the Board of Public Safety Thursday morning.
Officer Jeffery Chester, 26, was charged last week with two counts of felony official misconduct and two counts of misdemeanor battery.
Chester, an officer since March 2010, is accused of inappropriately touching a woman during a pat-down search at Potawatomi Park on Sept. 1 and inappropriately touching another woman whom he pulled over at Wayne and South St. Louis streets on Sept. 30 — both while on duty.
Chester had been on paid administrative leave since the allegations were made. Action, such as suspending an officer without pay, must go before the Board of Public Safety, per Indiana law.
South Bend Police Chief Daryl Boykins could have recommended Chester be fired at the meeting.
However, Capt. Phil Trent, South Bend police spokesman, said Boykins is still reviewing the internal affairs investigation — to determine possible violations of the police duty manual — and awaiting the results of the current criminal case against Chester before taking the case back to the board, if necessary, for a possible termination.
"He wants to make sure the criminal case goes through," Trent said. Thursday’s ruling effectively strips Chester of all police powers, including his gun and badge, and pay, Trent said.
Trent said it was important to Boykins that swift action was taken in getting the officer on unpaid leave status.
"This is the next best step," he said.
When the allegations were made, Trent said the department notified the St. Joseph County Special Victims Unit, began an internal investigation and placed Chester on paid leave.
In the Sept. 1 incident, Chester reportedly told the woman there had been a report of a rape in the area and was checking to see if things were OK. Aside from touching the woman, Chester also allegedly flipped up her dress, exposing bare skin.
In the other case, Chester is alleged to have pulled the woman over for not having a light on her license plate. He allegedly touched the woman inappropriately and tried to kiss her. Chester also asked the woman if he could touch her in exchange for not taking her to jail, reportedly for driving with a suspended license, according to the charges.
Chester was released for jail on a $1,000 bond last week.
Staff writer Tom Moor: