Minneapolis City Council members on Wednesday agreed to temporarily delay a vote on the reappointment of Janeé Harteau as the city’s police chief as concerns swirl about the department’s direction.
Mayor Betsy Hodges, who reappointed Harteau last fall, said that her faith in the chief never wavered as the department was consumed with fallout from Nov. 15 shooting death of Jamar Clark during a scuffle with two officers. The mayor also praised Harteau’s decision, over the police union’s protests, to request an outside agency — in this case the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension — to investigate the shooting. Hodges said the process should be standard procedure in officer-involved deaths.
Hodges and Harteau this week asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the city’s response to the recent 18-day occupation outside the Police Department’s Fourth Precinct station that sprouted in the wake of Clark’s killing.
“Change, as most of us know, is inevitable. But progress is not. Progress is intentional,” Harteau said. “We’ve just got started; this is just the beginning.”
Most of the citizens who spoke praised Harteau for her efforts to change the department’s culture.
“She’s never shied away from conflict or making unpopular decisions,” said Lisa Clemons, a former MPD cop who briefly worked with Harteau in north Minneapolis. “The community’s level of distrust should not be ignored, but change does not come overnight.”
Several speakers on Tuesday critized the department’s handling of the round-the-clock protests, which produced several tense standoffs between police and demonstrators.
Adrian Thompson, who was among the first to address the council, said that the chief and the mayor had failed to address the “elephant in the room”: the tall, concrete walls erected around the police station following the occupation, he said, were symbolic of the department’s frayed relationship with minority communities. Other speakers were critical of Harteau’s record on disciplining officers.
The decision to extend the public comment period to next week’s Committee of the Whole meeting was intended to accommodate both Harteau’s backers and opponents who were unable to attend Wednesday’s hearing at City Hall. The hearing was hastily added to the Public Safety Committee’s agenda without much notice.
“We need a chief who’s willing to work with our communities,” said Asha Long, an organizer for Black Lives Matter, adding that some officers lacked the “cultural competency” to police minority neighborhoods.