SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On a Tuesday in March, just after Pete Buttigieg began to catch fire with Democrats nationally, he flew home for his final State of the City address.
Mr. Buttigieg, the two-term mayor, drew more than 40 rounds of applause as he described the “comeback decade” in South Bend, pointing to new businesses and apartments downtown and the demolition of hundreds of blighted houses.
He had far less to say about his city’s police department: He devoted nearly as much time to it as he did to South Bend’s “smart sewers.”
But out of the spotlight, public safety was about to get worse. Reports of violent crime increased nearly 18 percent during the first seven months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. The number of people being shot has also risen markedly this year, after dropping last year. The city’s violent crime rate is double the average for American cities its size.
A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know.
Policing problems in South Bend came to national attention on June 16, when a white sergeant fatally shot a 54-year-old black resident, Eric Logan. The officer’s body camera was not turned on, which was widely seen as a sign of lax standards in the department. Mr. Buttigieg found himself flying home again, regularly, to face the fury of some black citizens and the frustrations of many others.
It is the great paradox of Mr. Buttigieg’s presidential candidacy: His record on public safety and policing, once largely a footnote in his political biography, has overshadowed his economic record in South Bend, which he had spent years developing as a calling card for higher office.
“When he came in, the goal was to help turn the city around. That had nothing to do with the police department,” said Kareemah Fowler, until recently the South Bend city clerk.