A South Bend, Indiana police union on Monday criticized Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s (D) handling of a recent police shooting in the city, saying his focus is predicated “solely for his political gain.”
Last week, Buttigieg was forced to temporarily leave his 2020 presidential campaign trail to hold what was a tense town hall with the South Bend police chief Scott Ruszkowski after an officer fatally shot Eric Logan, a 54-year-old African-American man who was allegedly breaking into vehicles with a knife.
In a blistering letter shared to Facebook, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #36 stated Buttigeieg’s response to the shooting about boosting his candidacy for the White House, “not the health of the city he serves.”
“Mayor Buttigieg’s comments have already and will continue to have a detrimental effect on local law enforcement officers and law enforcement officers nationwide,” the union states, adding that “his comments are driving a wedge between law enforcement officers and the community they took an oath to serve.”
“Mayor Buttigieg has in no way unified the community,” the union continued. “Mayor Buttigieg continues to only focus on one incident and one family [and] … has left several others ostracized. The members of this lodge and the officers of the South Bend Police Department have been and continue to be committed to building trust between its officers and the community.”
In a Wednesday speech to police recruits at a swearing-in ceremony, Buttigieg decried what he described as a history of “racial injustice” committed by law enforcement and urged officers to take a different path.
“The uniform has a history, and even if a perfect human being were to put on that uniform, that would mean taking on that burden,” he said.
“At a time when police culture still puts most of the emphasis on your fitness from the neck down … there is still not enough on the importance on your emotional and mental health,” he added.
The police union’s letter comes as a special prosecutor is requesting to investigate the shooting.
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Kenneth Cotter filed a petition asking a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the June 16 shooting of Logan by South Bend police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill. It comes a day after Buttigieg said he would write the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and notify Cotter that he would like an independent investigator appointed.
“I respect and support Prosecutor Cotter’s decision to seek an outside, special prosecutor to investigate the circumstances of Eric Logan’s death,” Buttigieg said in a statement. “Our community is in anguish, and for all of us to come to terms with what happened, it is vital that the investigation be fair, thorough, and impartial.”
Buttigieg faced heavy criticism Sunday from angry residents at an emotionally-charged town hall meeting, where some community members questioned whether he had done enough to reform the police department in his two terms as mayor. “Get the people that are racist off the streets,” one woman in the audience shouted at the mayor. “Reorganize your department. You can do that by Friday.”
Flaring tensions between Buttigieg and South Bend’s African-American community comes as the 37-year-old faces increasing scrutiny over his lack of support from black leaders. “Pete has a black problem. I don’t know of one black person out of Indiana that supports him,” Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)said of Buttigieg’s 2020 bid in an interview with the Daily Beast.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.