Hours after turning in his resignation, South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins said he wanted to take his job back. But the mayor said it was too late. At 5 p.m. Friday, Boykins once again became a captain on the department.
It’s a story that changed by the minute since Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced Thursday night that Boykins had resigned after a federal investigation into the recording of police department phones.
Buttigieg said it’s clear the department's practices don't meet federal requirements, but that he can't give details.
Boykins said the mayor’s office approached him Tuesday – asking him to take a demotion from chief of police to captain. He also said he didn’t do anything wrong and wasn’t given enough time to think it over before turning in his resignation. Ultimately, Boykins says Buttigieg forced him to step down from chief of police to captain.
But the mayor said Boykins made the decision on his own – and there was nothing he could do to get his chief job back.
South Bend Common Council President Derek Dieter (D – At Large) and members Karen White (D – At Large) and Oliver Davis (D – 2nd District) were upset they didn't find out about Boykins’ resignation until they read and saw media reports about it Thursday evening.
Then on Friday afternoon, Boykins and six members of the Common Council gave letters to the mayor, asking the mayor to keep Boykins in his position as police chief. Council members Dr. Fred Ferlic (D – 4th District) and Gavin Ferlic (D – At Large) would not sign the letter, saying they needed more time and more information, Davis told news media. Dr. David Varner (R – 5th District) was out of town and could not be reached.
At a rally supporting Boykins at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center on the city’s northwest side the chief, who only had two hours left as the head of the South Bend Police Department, received a standing ovation of support. More than two dozen current and retired officers, several community members and some Common Council members attended the rally.
“I'm really impressed and happy to see all the support I have,” Boykins said at the rally. “From police department, fire department, clergy, everyone here – I’m really happy to see that. It makes me want to fight harder to stay on as a chief. I might get a little watery here because it's really tough,” he continued, tears filling his eyes. “So please excuse me because I normally don't do this. I'm usually a tough guy who never cries. I'm going to do what I can with my attorney and fight as hard as I can to clear my name.”
Boykins continued, saying he didn’t run the department differently than any other chief.
However, Buttigieg said he felt a change needed to happen.
“I believe this is the right way forward, perhaps the only way forward in light of the seriousness of the things that were going on in the police department,” the mayor told reporters.
The big question – what prompted the investigation?
“I can’t speak to that,” Mayor Buttigieg said. “I haven’t heard any recordings. My best understanding is it would be a violation for me to listen to recordings that were made improperly.”
“I’ve heard through the community that there are some tapes that have been made…and that the comments about the chief are very, very negative,” said White. “And I think that as a council we need to ask to review those tapes.”
South Bend Police Patrolman Dave Gnoth also attended Friday’s rally. He told WSBT the investigation stemmed from phone conversations being recorded at the police department.
“As far as I know, and I've been there 34 years, I've always had the understanding that every phone was taped. If you had a personal conversation or any kind of conversation you didn’t want anyone else to listen to, you went to another phone,” Gnoth said.
The contents of the recordings involved in the investigation have not been made public.
Common Council member Oliver Davis said the council plans to use its subpoena powers and the Freedom of Information Act to try and obtain those recordings.
WSBT has also filed the proper paperwork with the city to obtain them.