South Bend Mayor goes on the record about police chief investigation


South Bend's mayor says the Board of Public Safety never should have looked into a complaint about the city's police chief. Mayor Pete Buttigieg said the board got the complaint because of a "procedural error" and said it should have gone to the mayor's office in the first place, but added he appreciates the time board members spent reviewing it.

The mayor also said he owes the 5 board members an explanation about his decision regarding the chief's future. That's why he called for a closed door meeting with the board Wednesday morning.

Chief Ron Teachman is accused of not backing up another officer when a large fight started outside the Martin Luther King Recreation Center earlier this year. It went public when a local watchdog group filed a complaint against the chief to the common council. The board turned that complaint over to Indiana State Police. Earlier this month, ISP handed its findings back over to the board who sent it and their recommendations about Teachman's future to the mayor.

Teachman and Buttigieg stood side by side at a news conference Tuesday morning about the city's new nuisance ordinance. But the mayor wouldn't say what he plans to tell the Board of Public Safety about Teachman in the private meeting Wednesday.

"I think it's really important at a time like this to balance the importance of transparency with the importance of privacy," Buttigieg told reporters. "As you know, this administration doesn't generally share records related to personnel decisions or anything like that."

The mayor appointed Teachman to his post earlier this year after a nation-wide search for someone to lead the police department. That came after fallout involving a federal wiretapping investigation into the department, rumors of racism and the demotion of former chief Daryl Boykins.

Now, after reviewing findings from the ISP investigation into Teachman, Buttigieg is forced to make a decision.

When WSBT asked him if there's a chance the allegations against the current chief were overblown, the mayor replied, "There's always going to be some folks out there who want to take a mole hill and turn it into a mountain. The police department is an especially controversial one. There are a lot of people who really want to go back to the old way of doing things in the police department, but we're moving forward."

The mayor wouldn't comment on the chief's future but it sounds secure.

"I think that despite any distractions that come up, that's not going to stop us from moving forward with the department and that's not going to stop me from working with our chief to really give our officers and our community the department they deserve," Buttigieg added.

It is unclear what the report says and whether it will ever be released publicly. Buttigieg said personnel issues generally stay confidential and he wants to be consistent with city procedures. A spokesman for ISP also said it's confidential. WSBT filed the proper legal paperwork requesting a copy of the report from both agencies and was awaiting an answer as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.