In an unprecedented move, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges on Wednesday blocked the appointment of police Lt. John Delmonico for a senior command position, the latest chapter in a long-running rift between Hodges and the former police union president.
Hodges overruled Chief Janeé Harteau, who earlier in the day announced Delmonico's ascension to Fourth Precinct inspector, a post that will be vacated when his predecessor, Mike Kjos, assumes his new job as a deputy chief.
In a sharply worded statement released late Wednesday, Hodges said that she hadn't taken her decision "lightly."
"Chief Harteau has been, and is, a good steward of the department, and I have supported her major personnel decisions," Hodges said. "She has been a strong partner with me in advancing the most progressive policing work that any city in America is doing. At this moment in the life of North Minneapolis, we need another kind of leadership for the next phase of the work that we are doing to build trust and transform relationships between police and community. Therefore, I have informed Chief Harteau that he will not serve as inspector of the Fourth Precinct."
Harteau responded Thursday morning, saying in a statement that she was "disappointed" in Hodges' move, saying she chose Delmonico because of his leadership credentials.
"As Chief, it is my responsibility to make personnel decisions that I see best for the operations and management of the department, and best serve our community," the statement said.
"If I must make a new appointment, I will work to select a person who exudes the same strengths and qualities as Lt. Delmonico, and I will continue to look to him as a leader in this department."
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, referred to Hodges' move as "continual meddling in department affairs."
. At a time when we need to compete to attract and retain the best people to serve our community, her misguided decisions only further erode officer moral and community trust. Leaving us all to wonder, 'Who's really in charge'?"
Under city code, the mayor has authority to make personnel decisions.
"The chief of police, under the direction of the mayor, shall divide the subordinate police into proper watches and assign them their place of duty," the code says.
Early Wednesday afternoon, Harteau announced Delmonico's appointment, pointing to his "countless, long standing community partnerships." Recently, Delmonico worked as a night supervisor in the Fourth Precinct.
The job is considered among the toughest in the department, with any new inspector being asked to tame crime in some of the city's most violent neighborhoods, while trying to regain the trust of wary residents.
"His demonstrated leadership in both his current role at the [Fourth] Precinct and as the former federation president will prove to be valuable in his new role as inspector," Harteau said.
Kjos will be in charge of the newly formed Operations Bureau, officials said.
In a Facebook post following Hodges' statement, Minneapolis mayoral candidate Nekima Levy-Pounds called the ordeal an "interesting twist in City of Minneapolis politics."
"I was taken aback to see that he had been appointed in the first place," said Levy-Pounds, a former college professor and longtime department critic.
Mike Sauro, a retired longtime Minneapolis lieutenant, questioned the mayor's decision to so publicly contradict the police chief.
"It's the first time I've ever heard anything like this in over 42 years," Sauro said. "So there's going to be more to this, whether it's going to be her resignation or her termination, I don't know."
A federal report released in March pointed to a "strain" in Hodges and Harteau's relationship, suggesting it was a chief cause for police confusion in the aftermath of the Jamar Clark shooting. Both leaders downplayed the report's findings.
"I was surprised" at the mayor's decision, said Minneapolis Council Member Blong Yang, who represents the North Side's Fifth Ward and chairs the council's Public Safety Committee. "I was not consulted on this."
Yang said that while Delmonico was "deserving," others disagree.
"Some folks are not happy about it, certainly," Yang said. "Whether it's correct or not correct, they associated him with Pointergate and the Police Federation."
"There are some wounds that are still fresh," Yang said. "There isn't that stability. Folks want a deep relationship with their inspector."
News of Delmonico's appointment was met by nearly instant backlash on social media, where several people pointed to his comments in a controversial TV news story questioning whether the mayor supports gangs or the police after a photo surfaced of her and a young canvasser making a hand gesture that several law enforcement officials said looked like a gang sign. The 2014 episode, which went viral online, came to be known as "Pointergate."
In a blog post after the controversial story aired, Hodges dismissed Delmonico's claims and contended that he was working to undermine her efforts to curb police abuse.
Some say the rift between the two dates to Hodges' days on the City Council, when the two clashed over union pension benefits.
Delmonico was head of the Minneapolis Police Federation, representing the city's 850 rank-and-file officers, from 1999 to 2015. Delmonico earned a reputation as an often combative defender of police. But he also commanded respect from some black officers within the department for his attempts to diversify the department, at a time when African-Americans were regularly passed over for promotions and harassed.
In her announcement earlier Wednesday, Harteau praised Delmonico for fostering several community partnerships, including his membership on the Police Community Relations Council. Delmonico was president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, which represents the city's 850 rank and file officers, from 1999 to 2015, when he was defeated in a re-election bid by Kroll.
Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this report.