Rybak picks cop to lead department she once challenged

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 30, 2012 - 11:55 PM

With 25 years under her belt, Janeé Harteau, would be Minneapolis' first female chief.

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Janee Harteau

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A street cop who has served 25 years on the force, wrote books on personal safety for women and seniors, and once had her nose broken by a suspect's punch, Janeé L. Harteau was nominated Monday by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak to replace outgoing Chief Tim Dolan.

If confirmed, Harteau, who once found the department so hostile she filed a complaint against fellow officers for sexual harassment, would be the first woman to lead it.

Her nomination comes just days after Dolan announced that he would not seek a third term at the end of this year. Harteau, 47, has been the rumored successor to Dolan since her promotion to assistant chief more than a year ago.

"She is a smart cop, a savvy administrator and a natural leader. She is the logical next chief, and will be an exceptional one," Rybak said in a statement.

Dolan will retire at the end of the year, at which point Rybak will nominate Harteau to lead the 850-officer force. The nomination will require approval from the City Council, but several council members pledged their support Monday.

"I think she's fantastic," said Council Member Betsy Hodges. Harteau has policing, administrative and people skills, said Hodges, who called herself an unqualified supporter.

"She has risen through the ranks through her integrity and great ability, and she demonstrates our city's commitment to obliterate all glass ceilings for exceptional people of color and women," said Council Member Don Samuels, chairman of the public safety committee.

Reached Monday, Harteau said she plans to hold a news conference later this week, but in a brief interview said she would build on Dolan's accomplishments if her nomination is successful.

"We have an incredible department who's nationally a leader in many areas. I really want to emphasize professionalism and increasing public trust," she said.

A Duluth native who put herself through college as the lead singer in a band, Harteau started as a Minneapolis police officer in 1987. Harteau spent years in the Third and Fourth precincts. She patrolled Franklin Avenue, and in 1990 appeared in the television reality show "Cops," where she said she enjoyed working in an uncontrolled environment with all types of people.

Later, when she worked undercover in narcotics, a man punched her in the face and broke her nose. He drove off but she got his license plate and soon he was in handcuffs.

Harteau rose through the ranks, working in the narcotics, organized crime and gang units before she was promoted to lieutenant and given command of the crime lab and the licensing unit in 2004. She was named inspector for the First Precinct, which covers downtown, in 2006. As the current Patrol Bureau commander she is responsible for all of the 911 response personnel and the department's emergency services units.

Harteau has a 13-year-old daughter and a domestic partner of almost 24 years.

She's an adjunct instructor at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., teaching a course about managing problem employees. She's an assistant professor at St. Mary's University of Minnesota, teaching a course on demographics and policing. She also has two degrees from St. Mary's.

In 1996, Harteau and police Sgt. Holly Keegel filed sex discrimination charges with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights that alleged the department failed to take action against fellow officers who harassed them and ignored their pleas for backup.

Their attorney at the time said the women refused sexual advances from male colleagues, who then harassed them. The harassment turned physical in 1995 when someone who had access to crime scene evidence littered their squad car with bloody knives and other paraphernalia taken from crime scenes. Some officers also refused to back them up on dangerous calls, they alleged.

The case was later resolved through mediation, Harteau said Monday.

Harteau said the department today is "absolutely a different department" with regards to sexual harassment. "It was also a very small group of individuals" who were responsible, she said. The department has since adopted changes to training and policy to deal with sexual harassment, she said.

She and Keegel went on to write two crime prevention books, one for women and the other for seniors. The books are compilations of tips for staying safe, with pointers on how to describe a suspect, how to help prevent your car from being stolen and how to handle a case of road rage, among other things.

City Council Member Meg Tuthill, one of six members of the council's public safety committee, said she's a big supporter of Harteau.

"I've found Janeé to be very responsive when I've had questions, concerns. I find her to be very level-headed, very community-oriented. She knows the department in and out, warts and all."

Matt McKinney • 612-217-1747

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  • Janee L. Harteau

    Monday April 30, 2012

    Age: 47 years old, born in Duluth.

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