C.J.: Minneapolis police chief likes to show the human side of police

  • Article by: C.J. , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 15, 2013 - 5:23 PM

The police chief’s nails were not all Frenched up for this interview.

When do you expect to ever write that? Or hear, “I’m a woman first, a police chief second.” Or joke about how parents who give their daughters names like Janeé and Holly probably aren’t expecting those girls to grow up to become police officers.

Minneapolis’ first woman police chief, Janeé Harteau, brings unique perspectives and an unexpected toolbox to the office. In her tenure with the department, Harteau has filed a complaint against fellow officers for sexual harassment. To view the toolbox, see my startribune.com/video.

Harteau showed me a side of her we don’t see in news conferences. “Nobody calls the police because things are good. They don’t call us to tell us they feel safe. They don’t call to say, ‘We’re happy you’re here.’ They call us because there is a crisis. Even though community members might be happy [police] are there, they are still under a crisis when that occurs,” said Harteau, who is looking for opportunities for her police to show they are just humans. “I looked forward to talking to you today for that very reason. I’m just Janeé,” she said.

The chief does not feel her style of leadership, which is openness, is being communicated when TV stations keep running a certain piece of video.

She talks with her hands. “I was walking away and I went [she raised her hand to wave goodbye] ‘OK, well, see ya,’ and now it’s used as the ‘I-won’t-answer-questions’ clip,” she said, playfully. Police chief had better not scowl, either. We media LOVE a good scowly photo clip to file away and use whenever we need it!

The chief was mostly smiles at the office — although media note: SHE DOES NOT LIKE REPEATING HERSELF. On the homefront, Harteau joked, “We’ve been together for 25 years but we’re still not sure,” when asked if she and police Sgt. Holly Keegel, parents of a teenager, plan to marry.

“I couldn’t be any more married. Now we’ll just make it legal. Of course we will.”

Beyond that wedding day kiss, Harteau is still angling for a peck on the cheek from President Obama, who has not yet kissed her, although they have met more than once.

“Still bummed about this whole Obama kiss thing, you know,” she said. “No kiss on the cheek, nothing. I’ve been telling everybody, after you did the article, that he didn’t want Michelle to get jealous. Maybe he doesn’t like me; I think he likes me.”

Well, I know a certain Yankee goon doesn’t like me but I still can’t wait for that team to return to Minneapolis and play the Twins, now that I have official word from the police chief that I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE ON THE SIDEWALK! Read on …


Q What is the one thing that has surprised you the most as far as being police chief?

A People really care about what I say today. I say a lot of the same things that I used to, but the fact that I hold the title gives what I say much more value. And people are actually interested in what I have to say. They ask me for my opinion more.


Q How has the job encroached on your time off in a way your previous post didn’t?

A There is no time off. The city is busy. You can imagine with 1,000 employees and a city of this size, there’s always something going on. I have to get out of state and out of town to really have time off.


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