- A town hall meeting held by breakout 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg turned tense on Sunday as South Bend residents expressed anger towards their mayor over a recent fatal police shooting.
- Frustrated attendees questioned Buttigieg over the shooting of Eric Logan, an African-American man, by a white South Bend police officer last week, which highlighted racial tensions in the city.
- Buttigieg is a rising star in the leadup to the 2020 elections, but faces an uphill battle ahead of the Democratic primary debates to woo minority voters, as observers have noted his crowds are “very impressive but also very white.”
A town hall meeting held by breakout 2020 Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg turned tense on Sunday as South Bend residents expressed anger over a recent fatal police shooting.
Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, temporarily left the campaign trail to address local concerns alongside Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski over the shooting of Eric Logan, an African-American man, by a white South Bend police officer last week.
Residents questioned why the officer, South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, didn’t have his body camera turned on when he confronted Logan in an apartment complex parking lot before fatally shooting the suspect, who allegedly was carrying a knife, in the abdomen. Officials explained at a press conference last week that the body camera was not turned on because the officer did not activate his emergency lights, which were connected to his dashboard camera and his body camera.
“Why wasn’t it already mandatory in the policy that you record every interaction with citizens? It makes no sense,” a local resident asked.
“My view is that under the current policy, when an officer on a call encounters a civilian, the cameras should be activated,” Buttigieg responded calmly as crowds grew impatient.
Several other residents expressed fear of being targeted by officers based on race, and demanded a review of the officers patroling the streets of South Bend. “Reorganise your department by Friday of next week and based on data get the racists of the streets,” one attendee said.
Citizen to Pete Buttigieg: "Reorganize your department by Friday of next week, & based on data get the racists off the streets. It's disrespectful that I wake up everyday scared. It's disrespectful that I have 3 boys that I have to teach today what to do." https://t.co/MWuWXMVTAp pic.twitter.com/a9ceu1PTnP
— The Hill (@thehill) June 24, 2019
“There is a lot beneath the surface when it comes to trust and legitimacy around policing and race in our city,” Buttigieg said, according to NBC, adding that while the city has made some progress towards raising police standards, the police department still struggles with diversity.
“As the mayor of the city, I want to acknowledge that those last two lines of effort, the effort to recruit more minority officers to the police department and the effort to introduce body cameras, have not succeeded,” he said, according to NBC. “And I accept responsibility for that.”
The 37-year-old is a rising star in the leadup to the 2020 elections, with recent polls indicating that most voters find him more “electable” than many other more established Democratic candidates. Still, he faces an uphill battle ahead of the Democratic primary debates to woo minority voters, as observers have said his crowds are “very impressive but also very white.” Critics have also noted his tense relationship with the police department and the black community following the controversial firing of South Bend’s first black police chief Darryl Boykins in 2012, shortly after Buttigieg took office.
Black voters account for about one-fifth of the Democratic Party electorate, according to the New York Times, and make up a large portion of the voting bloc in early-voting states like South Carolina, where Buttigieg recently campaigned.
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