SOUTH BEND – He's faced heavy criticism for how he's handled the search for South Bend's next police chief, but Mayor Pete Buttigieg says he plans to announce the top three chief candidates by Friday.
He will not give details about who those finalists are or where they’re from until then, saying he wants to protect the integrity of the personnel matter.
But three city council members sent out a letter Tuesday, criticizing Buttigieg for his unwillingness to answer simple questions about the search, including how many people applied for the job and how many of those applicants were already South Bend police officers.
“It’s definitely important that everybody understand all the details. The magnitude of this matter should be open,” said Council Vice President Oliver Davis.
Davis, President and South Bend Police officer Derek Dieter and Committee of the Whole Chairperson Karen White want answers. But the mayor said he’s not ready to give them just yet.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to get into names or identifiable details in a personnel process, but what I do think is appropriate is to make information available about the finalists,” Buttigieg said. “One of the most serious decisions a mayor can make is who's going to lead when it comes to public safety. It's a life and death decision, and it's not the kind of thing you do casually. So, we're going about this the right way; we're going to make sure the process is thorough and it has a lot of integrity so that it leads to the best possible outcome.”
Buttigieg said when he announces the top three police chief finalists later this week, he’ll also be able to talk more specifically about how he narrowed it down from the entire batch of applicants.
“We recognize that this is the mayor’s call,” Davis said. “However, when the mayor said he was looking for input from the council, from the community members, he opened it up to a lot of people. And when we have started to share things then, we have been reminded that it's his call.”
But Buttigieg said he’s welcomed that input.
“That’s why we had the town hall. That’s why I’ve invited folks from citizens to elected officials to write me, to get in touch, let me know what they think is important,” he added.
Other council members agree with Buttigieg, saying they have no right to be involved in the process since the decision is solely up to the mayor.
Councilman Dr. Fred Ferlic supports the way the mayor has handled the search so far and says he doesn’t think Buttigieg should even release a list of finalists.
“I would announce the finalist, period,” Ferlic told WSBT. “Because once you announce three, then you’re going to have political factions being involved, and I think Mayor Pete has to stay out of it. He has to appoint the best person there is.”
There's been a lot of speculation in the community on whether that "best person" or any of the three finalists are current South Bend police officers. Sources close to the chief search tell WSBT none of them are.
After the top three are announced, Buttigieg said they will spend some time in the city. In the past, he’s said he hopes to offer one of the candidates the job by the end of the year.
The new chief will replace former police chief Darryl Boykins, who Buttigieg demoted in April in the midst of a federal wiretapping investigation into phone recording policies at the police department. Boykins is currently serving as a captain on the department.