By Lauren Rearick
Mayor Pete Buttigieg knows he messed up.
It’s been 11 days since Eric Logan, a 54-year-old Black man from South Bend, Indiana, was shot and killed by South Bend Police Department Sergeant Ryan O'Neill, a white member of the police force. An investigation into the shooting remains ongoing.
In a question directed to Buttigieg, debate moderator Rachel Maddow pointed to continued acts of police violence that have occurred over the last five years in the United States. “The police force in South Bend is now 6 percent black in a city that is 26 percent black,” Maddow noted. “Why has that not improved over your two terms as mayor?”
“I couldn’t get it done,” Buttigieg said, later adding: “The officer said he was attacked with a knife but he didn't have his body camera on. It’s a mess and we’re hurting. And I could walk you through all of the things that we have done as a community, all of the steps that we’ve took, from bias training to de-escalation, but it didn't save the life of Eric Logan. And when I look into his mother's eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.”
The presidential hopeful noted that South Bend’s cries for an end to police violence aren’t unique, and that’s a problem. “This is an issue that is facing our community, and so many other communities around the country,” he said. “And until we move policing out from the shadow of systematic racism, whatever this particular incident teaches us, we’ll be left with the bigger problem of the fact that there is a wall of mistrust put up one racist act a time.”
“Not just from what's happened in the past, but what's happening around the country in the present. It threatens the well being of every community and I am determined to bring about a day when a white person driving a vehicle and a black person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching, they feel the exact same thing, a feeling not of fear, but of safety. I am determined to bring that day about.”
In response, Rep. Eric Swalwell told Buttigieg he should fire the police chief if the officer who fired the shots did not have his body camera during the incident.
"So under Indiana law this will be investigated, and there will be accountability for the officer involved," Buttigieg said, before being interrupted.
"But you're the mayor, you should fire the chief, if that's the policy and someone died," Swalwell responded.
As The New York Times reported, when Buttigieg took office in 2012 he fired Darryl Boykins, a black police chief that was accused of reportedly attempting to tape members of the South Bend Police Department engaging in racist conversations about Boykins. Boykins was replaced by two white police officers, CNN reported, and some South Bend community members told WDNU that Buttigieg’s response to the situation should have resulted in his impeachment.
Some on social media were quick to share their approval for Buttigieg’s response, and tweeted that he “answered truthfully” and his decision to not comment pending the investigation demonstrated an ability to lead. However, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery suggested that the question should have focused on why police diversity continues to worsen, and noted, “The question on police diversity for Mayor Pete isn’t ‘why hasn’t it gotten better?’ The question is ‘why has it gotten worse.’”