Pete Buttigieg Fired South Bend’s Black Police Chief. It Still Stings.

Mr. Sims has led protests over the police tapes for years, most recently last summer when a federal appeals court ruled in the case brought by the City Council, known as the Common Council, seeking to make the tapes public.

The case arose when the council subpoenaed Mr. Buttigieg in 2012 to hand over the recordings. The city attorney asked a federal court to rule whether the mayor could comply.

A federal district judge initially decided that some of the recordings could be made public, but an appellate court threw out the case entirely, saying it was not a matter for the federal judiciary. The issue was returned to the state judicial system, in the St. Joseph County courts, where it remains. The city has withdrawn from the fight, leaving it between the council and the police officers, who don’t want the tapes released.

As Mr. Buttigieg campaigns for president well beyond Indiana’s borders, the tapes case and his relations with minorities hangs over him. He points out that when he cruised to re-election in 2015, he defeated an African-American primary challenger even in the city’s heavily black Second District.

There are some who say the tapes will never be made public. Others, including Ms. Williams-Preston, the current City Council member from the Second District, expect them to come out and to include material that could inflame racial divisions.

“We have to prepare for that as a community,” she said.

Whenever it happens, she said, Mr. Buttigieg, whose term ends this year, will likely be far away from South Bend. Ms. Williams-Preston, a trainer of special education teachers, is running to take over his job.

“In our culture we want to find a hero,” she said. “But I want people to understand the story of South Bend. Any good story has an imperfect hero, where they struggle with something and they overcome. I’m not sure Pete’s completely overcome. But we’ve given him the opportunity to struggle with some issues.”

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