FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – He’s a democratic challenger for mayor, Wayne Township Trustee, and now Rick Stevenson is the brunt of opposition by public safety leaders.
The largest Fort Wayne police union emphatically did not endorse Stevenson for mayor on Tuesday. The political disdain centers around comments Stevenson made at a forum for candidates held at the Fort Wayne Urban League Saturday.
See also | Stevenson’s unedited comments from the forum
Following questions from the audience, Stevenson said, “Yes, there is a lot of similarity between Fort Wayne and Ferguson, [Missouri].”
Ferguson is the epicenter of recent racial tensions and violence between police and a largely African-American community.
During candidate discussion, Stevenson referred to a specific incident in which a Fort Wayne officer shot and killed a suspect in 2007. Stevenson said that same officer has recently been accused of excessive force.
“The Fort Wayne Police Department needs some direction. They need to be cleaned up,” Stevenson said on Saturday. “How do you kill a person like that and send him back out to beat up somebody else. He [the officer] should have hit the street for unemployment.”
Stevenson met with both police unions and the fire union Tuesday afternoon about his comments. Following the private meeting, Stevenson attempted to clarify his comments to NewsChannel 15. He said they were meant to be about a specific incident, not the entire police department.
“If we said anything that offended any police officer, that was not the intent,” he explained.
But Jon Bonar, president of the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association (PBA), doesn’t see it that way.
“It’s not a good thing to say. There’s no merit behind it and I think it’s going to have some ramifications for him in terms of the election,” Bonar said. “Quite frankly, if it was on the ballot between him and a can of peaches, I’ll vote for the can of peaches.”
The PBA consists of about 370 officers, many of whom are upset with Stevenson’s comments, according to Bonar.
When asked if he apologized to public safety officials at the private meeting, Stevenson said, “I apologized for what we might have said that could have been interpreted differently than what our intent was.”
The mayoral candidate stands behind his comments on the police action shooting. He said he has a lack of confidence in the city administration, which is why he’s running for mayor.
The two-hour Urban League Forum was initially posted as an unlisted YouTube video under the channel “Tom Henry for Mayor.” Stevenson is taking on incumbent Mayor Tom Henry in the Democratic primary.
The Fraternal Order of Police and Firefighter’s Union are each upset with Stevenson’s remarks as well. At this point, the PBA is the only public safety union to officially “not endorse” Stevenson.
All three unions are in the process of creating a political action committee with the goal of influencing the municipal elections.