The mayor said that's possible, as the department seeks to rebuild after a lengthy -- and often tumultuous -- federal investigation into its practice of illegally recording phone calls.
"We'll see," the mayor noted. "There is a huge benefit to having background inside the city. But there is also a benefit to having a fresh perspective."
Buttigieg said he will conduct a wide-ranging search, looking at both internal and external candidates to fill the position, which he calls one of the most important in the city.
"We need someone who can lead and motivate," he said. "... Someone with a level of accountability who can gain the confidence of the whole community, and who has multi-cultural sensitivity."
Interim Police Chief Chuck Hurley was hired at the end of March to replace former chief Darryl Boykins, who was demoted to captain related to the federal investigation.
Hurley said last week one of his main duties is to identify leadership within the department. He will then submit a list of names to the mayor.
Buttigieg, who did not make mention of any specific candidates, said he hopes to extend an offer by early fall.
Hiring a chief from outside would certainly break from tradition. Such a hire has not occurred since 1939, when then-Mayor Jesse I. Pavey chose William K. Ingram, of Wichita, Kan. -- referred to as the "college boy cop."
South Bend police Lt. and Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Noonan said last week he understands the mayor may want to look at both inside and outside candidates.
"I think we're in a unique situation with the things that have happened," Noonan said. "As an officer, I respect what the mayor feels is best for the city. And I understand having a new perspective. An outside chief can change the whole landscape, and there's positives and negatives to that."
Noonan added, though: "An internal candidate would know their way around more than an external chief."
South Bend Police Department historian Don Cornelis told The Tribune in a past interview that both good and bad came from Ingram as chief. Cornelis said Ingram was hired to shake things up and revamp the force, an idea that did not sit well with many officers who wanted a hometown guy. A history book describing Ingram's time as chief said his hiring "broke up the playhouses and caused some bitterness."
Criticism reached such a level that an attorney was hired to intervene, but Ingram stayed on until 1943 with the backing of the mayor.
He is credited with a number of positive changes, including increasing literacy among officers and reducing the department's waistline.
Some of his policies are still in place today. Cornelis said Ingram revamped the detective division by changing the hours of officers' shifts and assigning certain officers to different types of cases.
"He helped shoot the department to the top of the list for cities the size of South Bend," Cornelis said.
Internally, there has been no public mention of South Bend officers who could be favorites for the chief's post.
Traditionally, division chiefs are the most likely to receive offers. Boykins, for example, previously served as uniform division chief.
Steve Richmond, the investigative division chief, is retiring at the end of the month. The other two division chiefs are Gary Horvath (services division) and Jeff Walters (uniform division).
Regarding officers within the department as a whole, Hurley said: "I've been impressed with the work a lot of them have done."
Buttigieg said his administration is reaching out to both internal and external experts while conducting the search. That could, he said, include "stakeholders within the community," neighborhood groups and the officers themselves.
Buttigieg said he hopes to have a town hall meeting to discuss the search for the next chief.
"We need lot of input," he said.
His decision could play a large role in the future of the department.
"Our officers deserve great leadership," he said. "We're all counting on them. It's a challenging period for the community, but we have to make it work and stick it out."
Low officer morale within the ranks hasn't been lost on Buttigieg.
"Anytime police are focusing on internal disputes, they're not able to concentrate on protecting the public," he said. "We need someone to settle those disputes who meets modern standards of making sure we're ahead of the times.
"Officers know I'm counting on them," he added. "It's frustrating all their attention has been on the politics around them. It's a big distraction."
Added Noonan: "In my conversations with the mayor, he is aware of morale and concerned with it."
Staff writer Tom Moor: