Cops in South Bend, Ind., are anonymously speaking out against Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s response to a recent police shooting, claiming his lack of support has resulted in morale hitting rock bottom as several officers consider leaving the force, according to a FOX News report.
“Morale around here has been terrible,” a 20-year veteran of the South Bend Police Department is quoted as saying, while another officer added, “I don’t think he could ever fix the damage that he’s done.”
Local law enforcement told FOX that their relationship with Buttigieg has rapidly deteriorated after Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, who is white, shot and killed Eric Logan, a 54-year-old black man, on June 16. O’Neill resigned from the police department last week.
His body camera was not turned on at the time of the shooting. Authorities said Logan approached O’Neill while holding a knife and refused orders to drop it. Several criminal justice reform advocates have concluded that Logan’s death is linked to police racism, an allegation that has not been challenged by Buttigieg. The controversy has followed the mayor on the campaign trail, bringing issues like police misconduct back to the national stage.
On Wednesday, Buttigieg appeared at the NAACP Presidential Forum in Detroit. He criticized President Donald J. Trump and his administration for not pushing for “police accountability,” adding, “I believe that systemic racism is the thing that could unravel the American project if we do not confront it.” Buttigieg spoke of moving “policing out from the shadow of systemic racism” at a presidential primary debate last month.
One South Bend police officer told FOX, “When you see the politics and the way police officers are treated by the media and by politicians, it’s like, why would anyone want to sign up to do this job right now?”
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Officers requested not to be identified for this story in fear of retaliation by the mayor’s administration. But they told Fox News that they know of multiple officers who are considering handing in their badges or taking retirement if eligible, in response to the mayor’s handling of the shooting.
That’s the big discussion…is who’s staying and who’s going. I think you’re going to see a mass exodus, our administration is a joke,” one officer said.
An official statement from the South Bend Police Department said, “We do not comment on anonymous speculation and rumor,” while Buttigieg’s campaign reportedly has not responded to multiple media requests to discuss the current aura of discouragement within the department.
Last week, ABC57 News reported that several officers “who cannot be identified because they are still employed” said they don’t feel like Mayor Buttigieg has their back, and that perception has resulted in cops being “timid” while on patrol and “hesitant in their response to crime.”
The reports of the demoralized police force come at a time when local black activists have ramped up organizing efforts targeting Buttigieg and the South Bend PD. Demands include replacing the police chief, stronger use-of-force policies for cops, and the establishment of a civilian review board for increased officer oversight.
Black Lives Matter leaders from Los Angeles were invited to South Bend last week to organize and empower local progressives. They shared their experiences of launching a similar drive against L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the LAPD.
“We have a list of demands, and they fought for the same things in the Los Angeles chapter,” said Jorden Giger, founder of a local activist group called BlackTavists, in an interview with the South Bend Tribune. “So for them to come and say ‘we did this and you can do it too,’ will just propel us forward.”
The L.A.-based Black Lives Matter members vowed to return. A false narrative going around South Bend claims they were able to get LAPD Chief Charlie Beck “removed” last year when he, in fact, retired.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.