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In ongoing Harteau-union dust-up, Rybak jumps to defense of chief again

Posted by: under Politics and government Updated: December 26, 2013 - 12:16 PM

For the second time in as many weeks, Mayor R.T. Rybak has jumped to the defense of Police Chief Janeé Harteau over a dust-up about her plans to have a state agency investigate high-profile incidents involving police officers.

Harteau said turning over the investigations to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension will help restore public trust in the department.

In an editorial that ran in the Star Tribune Thursday, Lt. John Delmonico, president of the Minneapolis police union, wrote that the change actually undermines public trust because the department should be able to have confidence in its own investigators.

In response, Rybak opened a Facebook post Thursday morning by saying: Guess that "holiday spirit" didn't last too long.

In it, Rybak wrote that Delmonico's editorial said Harteau does not support her officers. Rybak continued: "That's an over-the-top charge misses the point: Everyone, the public and police, is served when, in highly charged critical incidents, there is an independent eye that gives the assurance we did everything to get to the truth. That protects the public, but also police, who too often get falsely accused and can get cleared better if people knows they are cleared by more than their peers."

The issue began last Wednesday, when Harteau revealed her plan. It was immediately smacked down by Gov. Mark Dayton, who said Harteau had not consulted with him or the BCA before going public with the switch.

At the time, Dayton said he was not criticizing the plan but the way it was handled. He noted that when the BCA is called upon to handle criminal investigations for other departments, “It’s the exception to the norm.”

The plan, which was supposed to start Monday, has been put on hold until the BCA's potential role can be sorted out.

Rybak stepped into the fray last week, attributing the mix-up to a miscommunication, saying: “The chief has been in ongoing conversations with the state and obviously somehow wires got crossed on one end or the other."

Last week, Rybak said that once the “miscommunication” is cleared up, he’d like to see state officials take up the city’s plan to use state BCA staff members to conduct investigations of police officers who seriously hurt or kill people while on duty.

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