After the fallout from a recent police shooting unleashed turmoil on South Bend, former Common Council president Derek Dieter has a message for Mayor Pete Buttigieg: "resign."
"Because of Pete's selfishness, in my opinion, he is still the mayor," Dieter told the Washington Free Beacon. Dieter explained that if Buttigieg were to resign, a provisional mayor would be chosen in a caucus by city precinct leaders. A new mayor, Dieter said, would be able to devote greater attention to South Bend than Buttigieg as he is running for president.
"To me, it doesn’t make sense. If you're running for president, that's a lot of pressure, you got to be on the road," Dieter said. "Everything that happens in South Bend shouldn't be on your mind. You should be concentrating on running for president. So, I'm adamant that he should resign as mayor."
Dieter's comments come after Buttigieg's most recent scandal, in which a white police officer shot and killed a black man on June 16. It is the latest in a series of race-related scandals that have plagued Buttigieg since he took office in 2012.
Dieter added that he has "no problem" with Buttigieg running for president, but he would like the mayor to admit that he has been unable to govern South Bend and run a campaign at the same time.
"If you're going to be running for president, that is a tremendous responsibility to do," Dieter said. "And if you've made a decision to do that, I think at the end of the day, South Bend has to be in your rear view mirror."
As Common Council president, Dieter frequently clashed with the Buttigieg administration, particularly on matters related to the police department. A former police officer, Dieter opposed Buttigieg's appointment of Ron Teachman as police chief in 2012, after Buttigieg refused to allow Common Council to review his application. Teachman eventually resigned amid complaints from black officers within the force. Buttigieg had hired Teachman to replace Darryl Boykins, the city's first black police chief, whom Buttigieg had demoted. The mayor's decision exacerbated racial tensions in South Bend that have lasted to this day.
Buttigieg faced the full force of a black community dissatisfied with his management style during a Sunday town hall. Buttigieg defended himself and took responsibility for the shooting, before opening the room to questions.
By the end of the night, Buttigieg could hardly get a word in, with angry South Bend residents yelling at him about the most recent shootings as well as making references to past scandals.
"Fire him like you fired Boykins!" one man shouted.
"Get the people that are racist off the streets," another woman said. "Reorganize your department. You can do that by Friday."
The night of Buttigieg’s town hall, there were six shootings in South Bend. In one of them, a man was seen walking through a neighborhood, apparently targeting police.
"We knew they were shooting at the cops," a witness told ABC 57.
After the night of violence, South Bend's Fraternal Order of Police released a statement denouncing Buttigieg, saying he has "in no way unified the community."
"Mayor Buttigieg's focus on this incident is solely for his political gain and not the health of the city he serves," the FOP said on Monday. "Mayor Buttigieg's comments have already and will continue to have a detrimental effect on local law enforcement officers and law enforcement officers nationwide. Mayor Buttigieg's comments and actions are driving a wedge between law enforcement officers and the community they took an oath to serve."
Buttigieg's latest challenges come just days before the first Democratic presidential primary debates and have called into question the viability of his candidacy. Common Council member Regina Preston-Williams, a frequent critic of Buttigieg's relationship with South Bend's black community, told the Beacon that she hopes Buttigieg will use his time at the debates to make amends for the latest shooting.
"If it comes up in the debates, and it likely will, he will be uniquely positioned to share relevant lessons and point to tangible steps communities can take to address race relations and the critical question of how to improve community and police relationships," she said.