Buttigieg Defends Police In 2015: 'All Lives Matter'

Mayor Pete Buttigieg (Derek Henkle/AFP/Getty Images)
April 3, 2019

Mayor Pete Buttigieg said "all lives matter" in 2015 speech addressing the tensions between South Bend's police department and the city's black community, stirred up in part by Buttigieg's request that the city's first black police chief resign in 2012.

"There is no contradiction between respecting the risks that police officers take every day in order to protect this community, and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses," Buttigieg said in his 2015 State of the City speech. "We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter."

Buttigieg's comments came amidst fierce controversy surrounding the circumstances surrounding Boykins's resignation and eventual demotion to Captain. In 2011, the FBI had conducted an investigation into the police chief, following accusations that Boykins had been illegally recording his subordinates's conversations, which allegedly contained racial slurs against him. The FBI ended its investigation in 2013 without raising charges, and Boykins sued Buttigieg, accusing the mayor of demoting him with "racial animus."

Buttigieg referenced the tapes in his speech, saying that "there will be divisions in our community related to the controversy over police department tape recordings, no matter what the courts decide, and no matter what anyone does or does not get to hear from the conversations of others."

The mayor also referenced a then recent scandal in which a local police officer was selling "Breathe Easy" T-shirts after Notre Dame football games, a reference to the 2014 strangling of Eric Garner by a police officer. Buttigieg said that incident, which caused "bitter disagreement" over "something as seemingly minor and symbolic as T-shirts," was a symptom of the deeper racial tensions started in the police tapes scandal.

Buttigieg has refused to release the tapes, saying that it might be illegal and cause even more racial division in South Bend. He has called his management of the Boykins incident his "first serious mistake as mayor."