Medaria Arradondo took another step toward becoming Minneapolis’ first black police chief Tuesday when a City Council committee enthusiastically approved his nomination.
The Executive Committee unanimously, and with little discussion, approved a motion to allow Arradondo to serve out the rest of former chief Janeé Harteau’s term, which runs through 2018.
“He knows our city inside and out and he knows our department inside and out and he couples that with a vision for the future,” Mayor Betsy Hodges said at the meeting Tuesday.
Hodges said that she was looking for a “forward-thinking” leader who can smoothly steer the department, with an eye toward repairing broken public trust. Arradondo fits that bill, she said.
Council Member Elizabeth Glidden agreed, saying it makes little sense to conduct a costly and time-consuming national search, particularly during an election year.
“I think that it is time that I’m very concerned about losing, especially when there is somebody like acting Chief Arradondo who is here,” she said.
“I know that you are someone who is not afraid, even when the consequences might be great to you, to stand up for change,” Glidden told Arradondo, who was sitting in the audience. “I think that is a characteristic that others recognize is very significant about you.”
That sentiment was echoed by Council President Barb Johnson, a longtime Harteau backer.
Arradondo, the assistant chief under Harteau, was lined up to succeed his boss after she was ousted July 21 in the wake of the controversial police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Arradondo told reporters that he understood the significance of being the first black police chief in Minneapolis, quickly adding that his duty lies in serving all of the city’s 400,000 residents.
“It is very humbling because again I do know that there have been African-Americans within the city that have paved the way so that individuals like myself can have the opportunity to be in leadership positions,” he said. “But I also know that I have 400,000 bosses that I have to be accountable for.”
Arradondo said that he has begun “having planning sessions” to fill out his command staff. This will include appointing someone to the assistant chief post vacated when he was nominated as chief.
“With any leadership transition, there’s always going to be some changes,” Arradondo said. He laid out his vision for the department at a news conference Monday, saying that he intends on overhauling the department’s culture, while improving accountability and outcomes.
The 28-year Minneapolis Police Department veteran has served throughout the department, including patrol, internal affairs and as inspector of the First Precinct. In 2014, he was appointed Harteau’s chief of staff, which put him on the front lines of the department’s community outreach efforts.
After a brief discussion Tuesday, committee members — Hodges and council members Johnson, Glidden, Cam Gordon and Kevin Reich — approved his nomination. The public will get a chance to weigh in on the matter at an Aug. 9 meeting of the public safety committee. The full City Council will vote on the appointment later.
Despite his popularity, Arradondo doesn’t have a lock on the job.
While no other potential candidates have been announced, some council members and department critics have wondered whether an outsider might be better suited to change the department’s culture.
Among the other names being mentioned around City Hall as possible replacements for Harteau are her former second-in-command, Kris Arneson, who retired as assistant chief earlier this year, and Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington, who formerly served as chief in St. Paul. Several council members have considered bringing in a progressive outsider as well.
Council Member Linea Palmisano, who has suggested that the city consider at least one external candidate, watched from the gallery Tuesday with Council Member Lisa Goodman.
Dave Bicking, a longtime department critic, said that a change in leadership alone is not enough to reform a department that he says lacks accountability.
“We have a history of virtually no discipline in the Minneapolis Police Department,” Bicking said, citing statistics that suggest that many officers accused of misconduct go unpunished. “It’s not a secret that this system is broken.”