From Minneapolis City Hall to Uptown to the lunch tables at Milda's Cafe, many people have a story about a time "Rondo" went above and beyond the call of duty.
Take the time Medaria Arradondo, who goes by the nickname Rondo, appeared on an early episode of the TV show "COPS." While responding to a distress call, he stopped to help an elderly woman cross the street.
During the street protests that followed the police shooting of Jamar Clark, Arradondo stepped in to calm things down whenever tensions threatened to boil over.
He may come to see those problems as the good old days now that Mayor Betsy Hodges has announced that Arradondo would succeed the city's former top cop, Janeé Harteau, who was ousted after the recent police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond.
Arradondo takes over as acting chief as the department faces calls for reform. Supporters say that if anyone is up to the task, it's Arradondo, who laid out his vision for the department Monday at a joint news conference with Hodges.
"There certainly have been areas of our community where the trust has been shaken," he said. "I'm committed to making sure that when the history is written, we are on the right side of history. We will not recoil, we will not withdraw from our obligation to protect and serve."
Hodges said Minneapolis police have "delivered more progress toward a 21st century model of policing than any other city in the country," but they need "clear direction and forward-thinking leadership." Arradondo is the right person for the job, she said, because he knows the city and is a skilled communicator.
"I expect the Minneapolis Police Department to continue the trend of keeping positive community engagement at the center of its work," she said.
Cops who were role models
Arradondo, 50, is a divorced father of two children.
At the news conference, he said when he grew up he looked up to several black officers, including Riley Gilchrist, who paved the way for him.
"But I also know that as chief of the Minneapolis Police Department, I have 400,000 bosses," he said.
He said being the first black chief wouldn't distract him from his mission to protect and serve all of the city's residents.
If he wins the job permanently, he would become the first black police officer to run the city's 870-member department.
Hodges has nominated him to serve out Harteau's three-year term, which runs through 2018. If the City Council's Executive Committee approves him at its meeting Wednesday, the next step is a public hearing.
It's not a done deal.
Other names cited by City Hall insiders as possible replacements include John Harrington, chief of the Metro Transit police and a former police chief in St. Paul, and Kris Arneson, a former assistant chief in Minneapolis who retired earlier this year. Several council members have privately discussed bringing in a progressive outside candidate.
Hodges has said she is looking for a chief who could navigate the political terrain to overhaul the department.
That's Arradondo, says Greg Hestness, a former deputy chief in Minneapolis who moved on to head the University of Minnesota's police force for 11 years until he retired in 2015.
"I have enough respect for his moral compass and core," Hestness said, adding that he tried to recruit him as his replacement at the U. Arradondo politely declined, he said.
Arradondo has made no secret of wanting to change the department's culture. He and four other black officers sued then-Chief Tim Dolan in 2007, accusing him of racial discrimination. Arradondo alleged that he had been passed over repeatedly for promotions, appointments and assignments in favor of white officers.
Arradondo on Monday outlined changes he would like to see, including a review of regulations on the use of force and body cameras. The department will soon post data online, he said, about police contacts involving suspicious-person stops, suspicious-vehicle stops, vehicle searches, curfew and truancy.
But changes in culture, he said, are even more pressing than reforms in department policies. "Someone could come into this wearing this uniform tomorrow, and they could change our policies, they could change our training, and take a look at our budget, but ultimately it's people," he said. "I have to lead people. And it's the people who are going to make the changes that are necessary."
Raised in Minneapolis, Arradondo, who goes by "Darry" around family, has said that he was drawn to law enforcement late in his teenage years. After graduating from Roosevelt High School on the city's South Side and earning a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Metropolitan State, he went on to earn a master's in human services from Concordia University in St. Paul.
North Side family roots
Arradondo joined the department in 1989, a time when few black officers walked the beat. Fewer still were in command positions. He started as a street cop on the North Side, where his family has deep roots. He worked stints as the head of Internal Affairs and, later, a specialized unit that focused on high-crime areas of the city.
After then-Chief Robert Olson appointed Arradondo as his chief of staff, Arradondo told the Star Tribune in 2002 that he didn't "want to be a 'yes' person all the time" and wanted to maintain his relationships with the various communities in the city.
Arradondo helped ease tensions following the officer shooting of Abu Jeilani, a mentally ill man who had ignored police commands to put down a machete and crowbar. The killing drew repeated calls from the Somali community for Olson to be fired.
Arradondo, then a sergeant, met privately with Jeilani's widow to offer his condolences and assure her that the shooting would be investigated thoroughly, according to Omar Jamal, a longtime community organizer.
Arradondo proved "instrumental in narrowing the gap of mistrust at the time," Jamal said.
Former deputy police chief Rob Allen went through the police academy with Arradondo and recalls his sense of community spirit. The athletic Arradondo would regularly hang back during training runs to offer words of encouragement to slower runners, Allen said.
Some protesters who interrupted Hodges' July 21 news conference at City Hall expressed doubts about Arradondo. Longtime activist Mel Reeves said the new chief's loyalty and allegiance will be with the Police Department and not the community.
Last week, a group of black leaders gathered at a North Side church to show their support for Arradondo. Some said it was high time the department got a black chief, noting that St. Paul has had three.
Debbie Montgomery, who became one of the state's first black female officers in St. Paul in 1974, said in an interview that Arradondo's familiarity with the department should help him identify and solve problems. "He's been in that system for 30 years. He's been in Internal Affairs, which is the most crucial unit to be in to understand the systemic problems," she said.
Over at Milda's Cafe, Kelley Hardeman remembered Arradondo as a young cop walking the beat on the North Side, where he used to stop to chat.
"I can call on Rondo for anything and get immediate attention, whether it'd be problem properties or a better understanding of the system, or whether it be bringing bike cops to the park for the kids," Hardeman said.
Thomas Barker, who runs a violence prevention program, agreed.
"To see one of our own, to know that he stood up against the police union, that says something," Barker said. "Not only does he come from the community, but he also knows the police atmosphere: who's good, who's bad."
George Robinson, a leadership consultant, was less optimistic. Arradondo is inheriting a Police Department beset by insufficient training and weak standards. He said the good will and political capital Arradondo has amassed over the years may not stretch as far in his new job.
"I think it's another story of putting a black man in charge of a situation and letting him be a fall guy," Robinson said.
Staff writer Adam Belz contributed to this report.