Politics

As Violent Crime Surged, Buttigieg Admin Lectured Cops on ‘Sizeism’

Violent crime hit two-decade high the following year

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg / Getty Images

As Mayor Pete Buttigieg contended with skyrocketing crime rates in South Bend, Ind., the city's police department trained officers to combat "sizeism" and "languageism," according to newly revealed documents.

South Bend's police department instituted a series of diversity and anti-discrimination training sessions in 2017. The training sessions took place as violent crime surged in the city, reaching the highest level in 20 years in 2018. The training extended far beyond the immediate issues facing the city and instead lectured cops on policing their own language to be sensitive to "isms."

The training slides for one of the sessions contained a list of nefarious "isms" that allegedly perpetuate prejudice and power dynamics. The denounced "isms" include familiar issues such as racism and sexism along with such topics as "sizeism," "languageism," and "materialism."

During his eight-year tenure as mayor, Buttigieg struggled with South Bend's rising crime rate and the deteriorating relationship between the city's police and black community. The city's problems spilled into the national spotlight when a South Bend police officer fatally shot a black resident in June, forcing the mayor to leave the campaign trail and fly home.

The slides for one of the sessions urged officers to avoid the use of "ableist" terms, such as "hearing-impaired."

"HEARING-IMPAIRED: an inappropriate term commonly used by hearing individuals referring to those who are Deaf," one slide read. "Considered offensive; implying that their hearing is broken, and needs to be fixed."

The South Bend Police Department did not respond to request for comment.

The training slides were first obtained by Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning government watchdog. Tom Fitton, the group's president, said the mayor's office had prioritized political ideology over public safety.

"These documents show how South Bend police under Mayor Buttigieg had to contend with politicized ‘training' that had nothing to do with the public safety," he said in a statement.

The training slides cited "Cumulative Perceptual Index theory" to explain the origins of bigotry and biases. A Google Scholar search of the term turned up no results of media or academic writing on the theory. Professional Consulting Associates, the consulting firm that created the slides, did not respond to requests for comments.

The presentation also addressed the Black Lives Matter movement. One slide, for example, supports the idea that police do not treat all races equally and alludes to an "all lives matter" mantra that BLM has condemned.

"Black lives do indeed matter, but no more, and certainly no less than the lives of every community within law enforcement's jurisdictions," the slide said. "The perceptual proof of that belief is unquestionably not universally present today because such a Vision is not yet universally shared by law enforcement."

The training sessions took place as South Bend dealt with historically high violent crime rates that peaked in 2018, the latest full year of data available. Roughly 1,200 violent crimes occurred in the city of 102,000 residents. The growing crime rate was driven by a nearly four-fold increase in aggravated assault since Buttigieg assumed office. It is unclear what effect, if any, the diversity training sessions had in improving policing in the city.

The Buttigieg campaign did not respond to request for comment.