Golden Valley interim Police Chief Scott Nadeau took himself out of the running to become the city's permanent chief and resigned Wednesday, a day after Mayor Shep Harris called for an investigation into alleged intimidation and racism in the police department.
During a City Council meeting Tuesday, Harris said the search for a new chief had seen "intimidating, provocative, harassing and threatening" tactics.
He said those tactics included a letter endorsing Nadeau signed by two police sergeants, two detectives and a police supervisor, and hand-delivered just before the last round of candidate interviews.
The other finalist for the job, Virgil Green, security manager for the Oklahoma City Convention Center, would be the city's first Black police chief if chosen.
"We are experiencing a pushback, arguably a backlash, to the diversity, equity and inclusion work that this community, this council supports," Harris said. "But that's what institutions of bias and prejudice do. We cannot and should not decide who the next police chief will be based on threats of resignations, intimidation and bullying."
Nadeau said he has submitted a resignation letter and will leave the department in two weeks. But Harris said he still wants an independent investigation of the department because "residents and staff of color do not feel safe with some of the police."
City officials this week narrowed the list of finalists for police chief to Green and Nadeau. Each candidate was scheduled to be interviewed Monday.
Nadeau served as Maplewood police chief until his retirement in 2021. When Golden Valley Police Chief Jason Sturgis retired in August, Nadeau was hired as his interim replacement. He told the Star Tribune on Wednesday that he decided to withdraw as a candidate after listening to the comments made at Tuesday's council meeting.
"I no longer believed it was in the best interest of the community or city to continue as an applicant," Nadeau said. He added that when he notified city officials of his decision to withdraw, "people were disheartened."
Green was named a finalist after Golden Valley's international search for a chief, conducted by a Texas-based consulting firm. He has 38 years of law enforcement experience starting with the Lea County Sheriff's Department in Lovington, N.M., and was later appointed police chief in Boley, Okla.; Spencer, Okla.; and Helena, Ark. He became deputy chief of the second-largest school district in Tulsa, Okla., in 2018. He could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The community group Promoting Race, Inclusion for More Equity (PRIME) and Golden Valley's Police Employment, Accountability and Community Engagement (PEACE) Commission interviewed the candidates and backed Green. At Tuesday's council meeting, PEACE Chair Trey Gladney said a police sergeant had interrupted the interviews to deliver the letter endorsing Nadeau to City Manager Tim Cruikshank.
That was "outside of what I understood to be the process," Gladney said.
"I've heard rumblings that the Golden Valley City Council and the city manager fear that officers may resign if Golden Valley hires a Black police chief," Martha Abbott, a member of PRIME, said at the meeting. "That means that fear is holding hostage their decision."
PEACE Vice Chair Jessie Smith, a member of the interview panel, started crying during the council meeting as she described the time and effort it had taken to reach a consensus on the finalists. She said she feared for her husband and son, who are Black, when she heard the rumors of officers threatening to leave if Green was hired.
"My family is not safe if we have rogue officers, if we have officers that are to a point that they would walk versus having a Black leader," she said.
Cruikshank and Deputy City Manager Kirsten Santelices. were to conduct the final candidate interviews Monday. Cruikshank, who will make the final decision on the next chief, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Nadeau previously served as police chief in Columbia Heights and commander in Brooklyn Center. He said he thought the search process was "transparent, community-centered and community-involved," and that intimidation and racism had not been factors.
The endorsement letter said, in part, that Nadeau "could have easily been a place-holder, simply continuing the status quo until a permanent chief was hired. Instead, he dove into the deep end, confronted negativity with hope and vision, and moved us well forward of where we had been when he arrived."
Jim Mortenson, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services — the union representing Golden Valley police officers, sergeants and commanders — chastised Harris in a statement Wednesday.
"Shame on Mayor Harris for his inflammatory comments not based on facts," Mortenson said. "These city employees and officers — who serve their community to keep it safe — deserve better from their mayor."