South Bend’s police union is not happy with Mayor Pete’s handling of an officer-involved shooting. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #36 issued a press release Monday explaining its reaction to the recent events involving one of their own members. The union has more than 350 members. They say that Pete Buttigieg is using a tragedy for political gain, namely in his presidential campaign.
The press release expresses support for Sgt. Ryan O’Neill, the officer involved in the shooting of Eric Logan, a knife-wielding man. O’Neill shot Logan two times as Logan approached him and Logan died at the hospital. O’Neill is a white policeman and Logan is a 54-year-old African-American. There is a presumption of innocence in America, the union points out, and support for O’Neill will continue throughout the ongoing investigation being conducted by an independent entity. That entity, the Metro Homicide Unit, is doing a full and complete investigation without involvement from the police officers with whom they serve.
The union calls out Mayor Pete for making disparaging remarks against police and failing to unify the community. His comments are driving a wedge between police and the community. From the press release: “All Police work and all of American life take place in the shadow of racism” is a comment made by the mayor that the union points to as disparaging. Buttigieg’s focus on this event is “solely for his political gain and not for the health of this community,” claims the union. By focusing only on this one incident and the family involved, Buttigieg has failed to acknowledge “the largest mass shooting in the recent history of South Bend or on one juvenile killing another earlier in the week. Buttigieg’s focus on one family has left several others ostracized. He has not spoken to the families involved in the Kelly’s Pub shooting, the South Bend Police Family, or the family of Sgt. O’Neill all of whom are suffering greatly.”
The statement addresses the point that the accountability level of officers has increased “exponentially” and the manual has been restructured at or above national levels in all areas. It spoke to the good works done in the community by the police department and members of the union. The press release ends with a plea for the community to come together. The union leadership points to the fact that Mayor Pete will soon no longer be running the city but the police department and the residents of South Bend will still be there.
It is not surprising that the police union issued this press release. Mayor Pete looks to be in over his head in handling the pressure of balancing running a small city and campaigning for president. Buttigieg is young at 37 years of age and his limited political experience is not serving him well right now.
Earlier in the day, Buttigieg had emailed campaign supporters to address events this past weekend, as he faced raw emotions, shouts and protests over the Logan shooting.
“It was a painful but needed conversation,” he wrote. “And I feel overwhelmed and heartened by the number of people — supporters and critics — who have reached out and made it clear over the past week that they want to join hands and face these problems together.”
Buttigieg also wrote, “I will be working with my team and community to build on what we have done together over the past few years. It is clear we need to implement bolder and more aggressive actions moving forward.”
It turns out that this is not the first time that Buttigieg has disparaged police officers. There was an incident in 2017 when Mayor Pete didn’t stick up for police as strongly as the department felt he should have.
Monday wasn’t the first time the union took Buttigieg to task. In 2017, then-FOP president Dan Demler argued that the mayor hadn’t done enough to stick up for the department when officers faced criticism. As one instance, Demler pointed to Aaron Knepper, an officer who was embroiled in various controversies and lawsuits over use of force.
“The narrative has been put out there that we can’t be trusted,” Demler said.
Knepper was one of the officers who responded to the scene after the Logan shooting and transported Logan to the hospital. He is currently the treasurer of the FOP.
In response to Demler’s comments in 2017, Buttigieg said he was “proud of the dedication our officers show every day, and we stand by our officers when they do the right thing.”
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Kenneth Cotter filed a petition Monday asking a judge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the shooting. It is becoming clear that Sgt. O’Neill is about to be painted as a racist because of an alleged incident eleven years ago. Is Mayor Pete a part of that plan? He supports the petition.
The mayor praised the prosecutor’s decision to request an independent investigator.
“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 Monday. “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.”
I’m not so sure that inciting racial tensions is the way Mayor Pete wants to go. He suffers from an almost complete lack of support from African-American voters as polling stands now. He should also consider his troubled past with racial relationships in South Bend. During his first term in office, tensions mounted as he fired the police chief who was African-American. The petition for a special prosecutor sounds as though it is all about creating a narrative against Sgt. O’Neill, not actually trying to create a fair investigation.
Cotter’s petition requests a special prosecutor to “avoid any appearance of impropriety, conflict of interest or influence upon the ultimate prosecutorial decision to be made.”
The petition also noted his chief investigator, Dave Newton, was a South Bend police lieutenant in 2008 while O’Neill was a patrol officer and had filed a report at the time quoting two other officers “that voiced a concern of inappropriate racial remarks made by Ryan O’Neill.”
My central question remains, as far as Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign goes – how can Democrat voters have faith in his leadership ability if he craters under the pressure of a police shooting in his small city? The people involved in the local tragedy are all known to him. He touts his desire to be of his community and work for the people he serves. Yet, when under pressure from the special interests that emerge from this kind of incident, for example, agitators like Black Lives Matter, he emotionally caves to pander to one community over another. As mayor, he should be calling for community unity and supporting the police as they protect that community. Given an absence of wrong-doing by Sgt. O’Neill, at least so far, Mayor Pete has not risen to the occasion and that calls into question his rise to the highest political office in the land. Is he ready to be the leader of the free world if he botches leading a city of 100,000 people?