Buttigieg urges public input on South Bend police policies
South Bend’s mayor has also sent a letter to the DOJ seeking a review of the officer-involved shooting of a man armed with a knife
By Jeff Parrott
South Bend Tribune
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — South Bend’s mayor has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice seeking a review of the case involving the South Bend police shooting of Eric J. Logan. He also prayed with ministers Monday and later urged more public input over the policies that govern the police department.
Monday’s events came two weeks after South Bend police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill fatally shot Logan in a downtown parking lot. Logan, allegedly caught breaking into cars, had approached O’Neill with a knife when confronted, the officer has told investigators. O’Neill did not turn on his body camera.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg, standing in front of 17 community leaders at the Charles Martin Youth Center late Monday afternoon, announced the DOJ letter and other efforts being done to address city police policies.
Prior to the news conference, the mayor had a closed-door meeting with the gathering of community members. This came hours after Buttigieg joined a prayer gathering of area ministers in the lobby of the County-City building Monday.
At the Charles Martin center, Buttigieg called on the community to begin learning about the city Board of Public Safety’s various policies and offer comment on possible ways to improve them.
The safety board oversees the policies that govern the police department. Buttigieg said rules on body cameras, use of force, police pursuits and others will be reviewed in the coming weeks. He said the public needs to be part of the review.
To do this, he will be asking the Common Council to support the extra training and resources for the safety board through changes in the 2020 city budget.
He said the policies used by the safety board will be under review in the next several weeks and he urged the public to take part in the process.
Training and minority recruitment also are on the agenda, Buttigieg said, for he restated the city’s inability to have a diverse police force that closely represents the racial makeup of the community.
“That means engaging this community above and beyond anything we have done to date to make sure we get qualified, diverse applicants, and that we tear down any unnecessary or unfair barriers to diverse applicants succeeding in becoming part of our department,” he said.
Meanwhile, a group of South Bend ministers gathered earlier Monday morning in the lobby of the County-City Building to pray for peace and more investment in minority areas of the city.
Buttigieg came down from his 14th floor office and sat in the audience, often closing his eyes as if in prayer, and returned upstairs about an hour later as the event was ending.
Against the backdrop of a banner that read, “Love, Peace, Truth,” leaders of the city’s predominantly black churches took turns leading prayers at the podium.
Speakers also mentioned the June 23 shooting at Kelly’s Pub that killed 27-year-old Brandon Williams of Niles and injured 10 others.
“We’re all sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick,” event organizer the Rev. Sylvester Williams Jr. told about 30 people in the audience. “Our city is nationally being viewed as a racist town. Our city is sick.”
During his remarks, Williams had a woman hand Buttigieg an envelope. Afterward, Williams told The Tribune that the envelope contained a letter asking the mayor to declare a city holiday “for spiritual renewal in the city of South Bend from the mayor’s office. A day of reflection, reconciliation and renewal.”
Williams said Buttigieg recently stated on Williams’ WUBS radio show, “that he had failed South Bend. He had failed his citizens because of the camera misuse. They didn’t apply the teaching and he had failed. But never once did he say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Never once did he say, ‘I repent,’ and we know that repentance will come and then renewal will follow.”
Asked what Buttigieg should apologize for, Williams replied, “That he not only failed to make sure that practices and policies were followed, but he failed to discipline in an appropriate manner not only those who pull the trigger but those who have racist overtones to the citizens they’re called on to serve and protect.”
At the prayer event, Buttigieg happened to sit next to Myra Butts, who spoke at the podium. She said she felt the event would help calm violence in the city.
She also said there has long been “benign neglect and indifference” to the black community’s problems from city administrations in South Bend.
“I want the world to know that Mayor Pete is learning a lot,” Butts said. “I think he was feeling the prayers. He’s just getting a rude awakening of what the people of this city, the African American community, the people of color, and the people just in general, he’s seeing that this is serious and we’re not playing.”
Also on Monday, the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police launched a GoFundMe page for the “legal defense and communications relating to” O’Neill. The page repeats many of the details that authorities have released about the shooting, including that Logan approached O’Neill as he held a knife, came within 10 feet of the officer and ignored multiple orders to drop the knife.
In a related news release, the FOP also attached a photo of a knife, claiming it was the same type that Logan was carrying.
“Police are taught to treat a knife as a deadly weapon, because a suspect armed with a knife within 21 feet of an officer is as much of a deadly threat as a suspect with a gun,” Harvey Mills, the FOP president, is quoted on the page as saying. “In light of self-defense law and police training, this shooting was completely justified.”
©2019 the South Bend Tribune (South Bend, Ind.)