After weeks of interviews, Minneapolis police have narrowed their search for the next Fourth Precinct inspector to a handful of names, a list that includes a veteran homicide detective and the department’s highest-ranking female officer.
Several attended a listening session Thursday, which city and police leaders called to gather public input on finding a replacement for former inspector Aaron Biard, who was demoted last December following backlash over what many saw as a racist Christmas tree prank.
Attendees gathered in small groups to brainstorm on ways to heal rifts between police and residents in North Side neighborhoods. Arradondo said the responses would help him make his decision, which is expected by April.
“We wanted to be very diligent and intentional,” Arradondo told those gathered at the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Davis Center in north Minneapolis.
Among the candidates present on Thursday were: Derrick Barnes, who already works as a lieutenant in the precinct; Lt. Kelvin Pulphus, of the procedural justice unit; Cmdr. Kim Lund, who runs the Juvenile Division; Lt. Sean McGinty, of the Strategic Information Center; and the longtime head of the homicide unit, Lt. Richard Zimmerman. Fifth Precinct inspector Kathy Waite, whose name is also in discussion as a potential replacement, was not at the meeting.
Fixing fractured police-community relations following a series of recent controversial police shootings should top any new inspector’s to-do list, leaders were told on Thursday. Other recommendations included addressing trauma among officers and residents and rooting out the so-called “blue code of silence.”
Racial tensions also remain a concern. A recent report of police traffic stops found significant racial and geographical disparities, leading to calls for a temporary moratorium on all stops for equipment violations that critics say mostly target minorities.
Biard’s removal continued a revolving door of leadership in the precinct, which has seen five of its past six police commanders either demoted or transferred amid controversy.
Arradondo said he had interviewed every lieutenant, commander and inspector — 61 in all — for the position.
“Not everyone that we interviewed said they wanted to become the Fourth Precinct inspector,” Arradondo said, adding that “that’s not necessarily a bad thing … This is a life-changing job.”
Of the remaining applicants, most have North Side ties. Barnes currently supervises the middlewatch shift in the precinct, while Zimmerman has deep family roots in the area. Waite, the highest-ranking woman on the force, did a short stint in the precinct as a lieutenant.
Biard was stripped of his command last December after two of his officers were found to have decorated the police station’s Christmas tree with racially insensitive items. The episode, which department officials described as a prank gone wrong, drew angry backlash and calls for the officers’ firing.
The two officers involved, Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg, were placed on home assignment while an internal affairs investigation continues.
Biard’s duties have since been assumed by former North Side inspector turned Assistant Chief Mike Kjos, who’s been juggling the full-time job of inspector with running the department’s day-to day operations.