EXCLUSIVE: Mayor Pete Buttigieg discusses SBPD wiretap investigation

Nearly three months ago, Mayor Pete Buttigieg issued a statement announcing the resignation of then-Chief Darryl Boykins. Boykins later rescinded his resignation and was demoted to captain. Since then several protests have occurred as citizens demand more answers.

“It was a tough decision and it was one of those moments where it was clear that there was not going to be any desirable option. Sometimes in this job you've got to choose between a number of options you don't like and here I felt like I had essentially two options. One was to defy federal authorities and risk the possibility of prosecution. The other was to ask the chief to resign. I decided to ask the chief to resign. It was not a pleasant decision, but I felt it was the right one,” said Buttigieg. “I knew people would be upset, that was one of the reasons this was such a tough decision. It was clear that this was going to cause a lot of concern, a lot of confusion, but it was also clear this was something that had to be done. It was one of those tough moments that leaders face where you have to knowingly do something that is not going to be pleasant in order to keep the community moving forward.”

Last week the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent a letter to the city saying charges would not be filed against Boykins or Director of Communications Karen DePaepe for their roles in the controversy. Buttigieg said despite the lack of charges he still would not hire them back.

Protestors then asked for his resignation and announced plans to impeach the mayor.

We were presented with a series of facts and a set of problems and give it a chance to fix it our way. Otherwise authorities might have fixed it their way, possibly including filing charges. We acted, charges were not filed, that's a good thing,” said Buttigieg. “I want people to understand that I’ve acted in the interest of the community. I’ve tried to maintain the integrity of the department. We had serious legal problems and those problems are now being addressed. We have a high standard in this administration. If you make administrative mistakes so serious that you come to the brink of prosecution you're probably not going to be able to hold on to a leadership position in this administration.”

There is still a debate whether anyone can listen to the tapes because the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not state whether they were legally made under the Federal Wiretap Act. If they are considered to have been illegally created Buttigieg may not be able to take action against someone making inappropriate remarks, as alleged, even if someone provided him a copy.

The city sent the tapes to the U.S. Department of Justice for review on the legality.

“My hope is that somehow, some way, all this information will come to light because I think the community needs to know and I think I want to know. I know I want to know. I don't know what's on the tapes. I know it could be damaging to some individuals. I know it could be damaging to the community, but I think the truth is generally the best way out and so figuring out how to lawfully make the truth available to everybody is our focus right now, said Buttigieg.

Meanwhile, South Bend is also looking for a new police chief. The mayor has continually said ‘everything is on the table’ and they are considering candidates both within the department and from the outside.

“The bottom line is we need a chief who can settle any internal disputes in the police department and can earn confidence outside of the department and I will consider anybody who seems to have ability to do that,” said Buttigieg.

He’s also looking for someone who can help work on the public perception of the department by better connecting with the community.

Police officers can't do it alone. Crime is not just a law enforcement problem. It's a community problem and it calls for a community solution. That means a neighborhood watch, that means mentoring, that means jobs, that means creation of programs for kids. We've got to do all of the above or we're never going to get to where we need to be,” said Buttigieg.

He hopes to have the position filled by the end of the summer, but added it could take the rest of the year.


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