Mayor Pete Buttigieg said during Thursday's Democratic presidential debate that the South Bend police force isn't diverse because "I couldn't get it done."
South Bend, Indiana, fell into chaos earlier this month after a white police officer shot an African American man during an altercation. Police have alleged that the man, Eric Jack Logan, was breaking into cars and was wielding a knife.
Buttigieg called the situation around the shooting a "mess" on Thursday because the officer didn't have his body camera turned on.
"We are hurting. I could walk you through all of the things we have done as a community," he said at the debate. "All of the steps we took, from bias training to de-escalation, but it didn't save the life of Eric Logan. When I look into his mother's eyes, I have to face the fact that nothing that I say will bring him back."
The South Bend Police Department has lost African American officers nearly every year under Buttigieg, according to numbers released to CNN by the police department. When Buttigieg took office in January 2012, the department had 29 black officers on the force. That number was 15 in 2019, according to the numbers.
Buttigieg first acknowledged that he had "not succeeded" in recruiting a diverse police force in a tense town hall in South Bend following the shooting earlier this month.
"The effort to recruit more minority officers to the department and the effort to introduce body cameras have not succeeded and I accept responsibility for that," he said. "We have tried but not succeeded to increase diversity in the police department and we need help."
Buttigieg, whose breakout presidential campaign has vaulted him from little-known mayor to top-tier candidate, has struggled to win over African American voters, a key demographic for candidates navigating presidential primaries and ultimately general elections.
In May, Buttigieg bluntly told a crowd of supporters is Orangeburg, South Carolina, "I need help."
"Out here, people are just getting to know me, and trust, in part, is a function of quantity time, and we are racing against time," he said.
Buttigieg added during Thursday's debate that policing would need to be moved out of "the shadow of systemic racism" for broad changes to take place.
"It threatens the well-being of every community. I am determined to bring about a day when a white person driving a vehicle in and a black person driving a vehicle, when they see a police officer approaching, feels the same thing," he said. "Not of fear, but of safety. I am going to bring about that very thing."