Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, IN and 2020 presidential hopeful, has been under fire in recent days after a white police officer in South Bend shot and killed a 54-year-old black man. Buttigieg faced his constituents at a town hall on Sunday which was dominated by black residents lambasting his widely-criticized handling of the situation.
The officer, Ryan O’Neil, says that the man he killed, Eric Logan, was armed with a knife, and that he refused to put the knife down and stepped towards him, necessitating the shooting. Shortly after the shooting, it was discovered that O’Neil has allegedly made racist comments in the past. He didn’t have his body camera turned on at the time of the shooting.
As the New York Times reported, when Buttigieg—who has long had a tense relationship with communities of color in South Bend, including around policing—brought up the requirement that officers wear body cameras, one person yelled “Why haven’t you been enforcing it, then?” At another point, someone shouted, “We don’t trust you,” in response to comments from Buttigieg about his history with policing issues in the community.
“There’s a lot beneath the surface when it comes to trust and legitimacy around policing and race in our city,” Buttigieg said, according to the Times.
Yeah, sure sounds like it!
The Times appeared to think that Buttigieg screwed up the meeting:
At a few points Mr. Buttigieg asked the audience for quiet and to stop interrupting him. He listened to complaints about a pattern of police mistreatment of black people. He admitted failures. He promised to do better. But at the same time, there was little of the soothing emotional empathy that politicians strive to deliver in such moments.
NBC had a similarly skeptical account of the proceedings:
Buttigieg seemed to vacillate between despondency over the jeers, irritation over being interrupted and wonky erudition as he offered explanations about local laws on police misconduct that only further angered the crowd.
Buttigieg did admit that the South Bend police force had failed to increase its diversity. He also promised to call for a federal investigation of the shooting and to appoint a special prosecutor. And he tried to convince his constituents that he was at the meeting out of his mayoral duty, not political strategy.
“I don’t know if it’s smart or not, I don’t know if it’s strategic or not, but it’s my city,” Buttigieg said, according to the Times. “I have a relationship with everybody in this city.”
He told NBC that he would still attend the Democratic presidential debates later this week.