Citizens will have one last chance to voice their opinions about Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau during a public hearing on Wednesday. Following the hearing, the City Council’s Committee of the Whole is expected to vote on Harteau’s appointment and forward its recommendation for a full council vote on Friday.
In our view, Harteau deserves another three-year term.
The veteran officer took the job at the end of 2012, becoming the first female and openly gay leader of the police force in Minnesota’s largest city. She worked her way through the ranks even after filing a successful sexual harassment/discrimination suit against the Police Department earlier in her career. As one who has been an insider — and a challenger — to the system, she brings important insight and sensitivities to the position.
Understanding that police-community relations and trust continue to be major challenges, Harteau has cited the need for a culture shift based on three core values — commitment, integrity and transparency. For the most part, those values have been reflected in her management of the department.
For example, Harteau has invited outside, independent evaluations of her department to improve its operations. In light of concerns raised about police shootings of black men both here and around the nation, she called for independent investigations of all Minneapolis officer-involved shootings that cause death or great bodily harm.
Along with Mayor Betsy Hodges, Harteau applied a measured approach to Black Lives Matters demonstrators who have protested the November death of Jamar Clark. City leaders balanced the right to protest with the need to maintain public safety — including in their handling of the three-week occupation and protest in front of the North Side police precinct headquarters. Officers eventually had to move in to clear the street, but restraint on both sides led to a peaceful resolution.
A major mantra of Harteau’s administration has been “cops out of cars.” She insists that officers build relationships with residents through bike patrols, walking the beat and face-to-face contact. She also has encouraged officers to work with young people in constructive ways.
Harteau has not hesitated to discipline or dismiss bad cops. She also has committed to further diversifying the sworn force.
Though she deserves a second term, Harteau must address the uptick in violent crime over the past 18 months, including increased gun violence.
On balance, Harteau has set the right tone and begun to make needed changes in the department. Another term should give her the opportunity to show substantive results from the important initiatives she has started.