South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg came face to face with the roiling tensions of the community at a town hall on Sunday, following the shooting death of Eric Logan by a local police officer.
There were questions about body cameras in the department, as well as for an outside investigation into the department.
“Get the people that are racists off the streets,” one woman insisted, demanding that all racist officers be fired by the end of the week. “You can do that.”
There were even calls for Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski, who was also present, to be fired.
Others shouted at the mayor, calling him a liar.
“How can we trust this process?” local activist Blu Casey asked the mayor. “How are we supposed to trust you?”
According to the report, tensions were so high during the town hall that members of the audience began yelling at one another.
Buttigieg acknowledged during the town hall that he failed to bring more diversity to the police department, where only 5% of officers are Black, though he insisted it was not for lack of trying.
“I promise you, we have tried everything we can think of,” he said.
“I know people aren’t going to walk out of this room satisfied,” Buttigieg added during the town hall. “We are here to have tough conversations, but I want everyone here to be empowered, and I want voices to be heard.”
However, there were also times when Buttigieg earned the approval of the audience, such as when he voiced his agreement for the need for an outside review of Logan’s shooting. Activists have been asking for a special prosecutor to handle the case.
The Tribune writes:
[Buttigieg] passed along the recommendation to St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter, who oversees the Metro Homicide Unit currently investigating the shooting. Cotter would have to ask a judge to appoint a special prosecutor, and he said last week that he is still considering the idea.
On the other hand, Councilwoman Regina Williams-Preston challenged Buttigieg to start listening to a wider set of voices, and not just those that he is used to communicating with.
“I think it’s time you rethink who you think the leaders are in this Black community,” Williams-Preston said.
Williams-Preston also brought up the fact that she and other members of the council have pushed for years to build a citizen review board to help oversee the police.
“How long before you take action and you respond to what the community has been asking for?” she added.
Buttigieg said that he was always open to hearing from more people, but also added that some of the people that he has tried to reach out to have not always shown up to meetings with him.
“Please accept the invitation,” he said. “That seat at the table is waiting for you.”