Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and her wife of a year, Sgt. Holly Keegel, have separated.
Are they going to be able to save their 26-year relationship?
“I don’t know,” Harteau told me Monday in an emotional interview.
“I’ve been better. You’re very observant or somebody’s talking,” a very “Law and Order”-sounding Harteau said, referring to my question to her on Twitter about the whereabouts of her wedding band.
I was tipped to find a recent photo showing the chief wearing her wedding band. I was too busy the last couple of weeks, but Friday, the second time someone called my attention to the missing wedding band, I got on it and then tweeted @chiefharteau about her missing ring.
“Wow. That’s not nice,” she said of me being sent on a wedding-band photo hunt. “This whole public life is hard enough. I am separated and it’s not good. This job is all-encompassing. It’s been a struggle for us both and right now we are just trying to concentrate on being good parents.”
Harteau and Keegel have a teenage daughter; the chief has already purchased another residence.
Harteau volunteered that she has no intention of leaving the Top Cop post to which she was named in 2012. (“Volunteered” means I never suggested this, so don’t confuse this interviewer with the sexist stupidity that made Matt Lauer’s “Today Show” interview with General Motors CEO Mary Barra memorable.)
Harteau said: “There is no animosity. Frankly, when you don’t have time left in a day, it’s the marriage that goes first. I have to do my job and I have to take care of [our daughter]. Everything else is secondary. That is true for both of us. It’s not glamorous, it just is. I don’t blame Holly for any of this. These changes I’ve gone through are on me. I have the utmost respect for Holly and can’t think of a better person to raise a child with than her.”
Harteau is miffed to have heard that a reporter has been asking questions that “insinuate that [the separation] is having an impact” on her job.
“I am the polar opposite. My personal life has suffered because of my job, not the other way around,” she said. “What I want people to understand is that marriage is hard, and this job takes over at some place. Honest to God, I can’t go anywhere. I’m very well known. I definitely have celebrity status that I would say no other chief has had. I get pulled into a bazillion different directions.
“It’s humbling and I like it in the sense that every women’s organization wants me to come speak to them and tell my story, but nothing is sacred in my life anymore. I can’t go to the grocery store, I can’t go anywhere. That’s a challenge for my family, too.”
It’s personally befuddling to me that Harteau and Keegel could be a couple for 25 years and yet end up separating within the first year of marriage.
“Because we’ve never been together while I was the chief. There have been a lot of transitions in this; this career is all-encompassing. It’s hard to be married and even harder to be married to the Minneapolis police chief. I tell you, I feel for Holly. She not only is married to the chief, but I’m her chief. She puts up with a lot of [crap]. People think she knows everything: You’ve got to know, Holly, because you are married to the chief? She has to hear people ripping on me because I’m the chief. You don’t think that when I go home, that’s not an argument? She gets frustrated; I get frustrated. It’s not my fault; it’s not her fault. It just is.
“She doesn’t get the positiveness. Holly has to put up with people saying she has her job because I gave it to her. We all know that’s not true,” Harteau said. “She earned her position and accolades for what she does at work. Look at the articles I’ve seen on Google that make it sound like I’ve given her preferential treatment because I’m married to her. We did [start at MPD together]! As a matter of fact, she’s been punished; when I was appointed inspector of First Precinct, she had to leave because of nepotism policies. I can’t be her supervisor or her immediate supervisor’s supervisor. People are just sort of idiots to think she would have to quit her job. People get married all the time.
“If we had been able to get married legally, like the rest of the world, we would have done it in 1989, when we were both officers,” Harteau said. “Everybody’s definition of when I married is different. For us, we’ve been married for 26 years and that’s the reality of it. I don’t think either Holly or I could have predicted today. I don’t think we could have predicted the changes I’ve gone through and she’s gone through and the impact this job has had on both of us; I really don’t.”
As for rumors of a third party, Harteau said “That’s not true. It’s as simple as marriage is hard.”
Harteau said it’s “ironic” that anything was being read into her ringless finger. “I actually wear two rings, but my diamond fell out of my [wedding] ring. I’m not Amelia, it’s not like I rushed out the door, you know.”