Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg rebuked a man at an Iowa July Fourth barbecue for suggesting that Buttigieg “just tell the black people of South Bend to stop committing crime and doing drugs.”
“Sir, I think that racism is not going to help us get out of this,” the South Bend, Indiana, mayor told David Begley, of Omaha, Nebraska. “The fact that a black person is four times as likely as a white person to be incarcerated for the exact same crime is evidence there’s systemic racism. It is evidence of systemic racism, and with all due respect, sir, racism makes it harder for good police officers to do their job too.”
He added, “When black people and white people are treated the same by the criminal justice system, it will be easier for white people and black people to live in this country and it will be easier for law enforcement to do their job. But racism has no place in American politics or in American law enforcement.”
The exchange happened at the Carroll County Democrats 4th of July BBQ in Carroll, Iowa.
“He dismissed me as a racist, which I resent,” Begley told CNN in an interview afterward.
Buttigieg has faced criticism from the black community in South Bend and from the Fraternal Order of Police after Eric Logan, a black South Bend resident, was shot and killed by a white police officer last month. Police have alleged that Logan was breaking into cars and was wielding a knife.
Buttigieg was asked about the shooting in the first Democratic presidential debate last week and was asked why South Bend’s police force isn’t more diverse.
“Because I couldn’t get it done,” he said at the debate.
“We are hurting. I could walk you through all of the things we have done as a community,” he added. “All of the steps we took, from bias training to deescalation, but it didn’t save the life of Eric Logan. When I look into his mother’s eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back.”
The South Bend Police Department has lost African American officers nearly every year under Buttigieg, according to numbers released to CNN by the police department. When Buttigieg took office in January 2012, the department had 29 black officers on the force. That number was 15 in 2019, according to the numbers.
Buttigieg first acknowledged that he had “not succeeded” in recruiting a diverse police force in a tense town hall in South Bend following the shooting.