Although Mayor Pete Buttigieg is still campaigning as a Democratic presidential nominee, the South Bend, Indiana, politician isn’t looking too good back home.
According to The Guardian, Buttigieg and his administration were facing another round of criticism from residents concerned about police brutality in his hometown. Former South Bend city council member Henry Davis Jr. is especially criticizing Buttigieg, who he claims didn’t defend him against four police officers and tried to silence him when he tried to sue Buttigieg’s administration.
The whole ordeal started back in 2012 when Davis, who is Black, was still a South Bend council member. He sent a letter to Barack Obama‘s justice department asking them to investigate an accusation of brutality and racial bias in the South Bend police department. Davis said he wrote the letter after four white officers were recorded by the department’s spokesperson making what she called racist comments about the city’s Black police chief. At the time, the Buttigieg administration’s response was to demote the police chief and fire the spokesperson. Thus far, they’ve also successfully fought to keep the tapes from being released.
In his letter to the justice department, Davis — who’s currently running for city council again – also pointed out that an unarmed Black man died in police custody in 2012. After he sent the letter out, Davis says he was harassed by the South Bend police department’s white officers, including one instance in which cops pulled him over and drew guns on him.
Along with all this, the four officers caught on tape sued Davis in 2014 for libel, saying that Davis didn’t have the authority to send his letter to the justice department using the council letterhead. To add insult to injury, the Buttigieg administration told Davis that the city’s attorneys wouldn’t defend him against the lawsuit. Davis said he believes city attorneys were obligated to defend him and argued that the suit was an apparent way to intimidate and silence him. Thus, Davis sued the city and the Buttigieg administration for refusing to defend him.
Eventually, the officers’ lawsuit was thrown out in June 2019. Then, in August, Davis said the city contact him with a proposed settlement for his lawsuit against them. Davis said the settlement included a gag order, however.
He called the gag order “nuts,” and the city offered a second deal. This time Davis would be allowed to talk about the case, but he couldn’t discuss the particulars of the settlement. Davis continued to stay frustrated with the administration.
“The same guy who’s on a national stage asking to have the Sandra Bland case reopened, calling out Trump for not being transparent and talking about police brutality is the same guy that is ordering his legal staff to kill the free speech of an African American elected official,” Davis said.
A spokesperson for the Buttigieg administration declined to comment on the gag order, according to The Guardian.
This whole ordeal happens amid residents who still don’t trust the Buttigieg administration after Eric Logan, a Black man, was killed by white officers in South Bend in March. Before and after Logan’s death, his mom, Shirley Newbill, experienced two separate incidents in which cars belonging to her caught on fire. The fire department says the incidents were caused by engine fires, but the family’s supporters say both the cars were off at the time and they suspect differently. Supporters question why the city’s police and fire department aren’t conducting a criminal investigation into the fires.
“You’d expect this kind of stuff to happen in the 50s, 60s,” said Mario Sims, a South Bend pastor and activist. “This is racism at best and corruption at worst. How do you have a police department that does not investigate crimes?”
Buttigieg tried to address the outrage over Logan’s death with new plans focused on racism and police reform, but Sims said Buttigieg’s plans and comments are weak since questions still persist around Logan’s death and the aftermath.
“We’ve had to endure all of this and the ridiculous statements and professions of a mayor who is now a candidate saying ‘I believe in transparency’, but if you look at his record, no he doesn’t,” Sims said.