In the latest reshuffling of her command staff, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau named new leaders in all five of the city’s police precincts, moves that included the demotion of a popular commander.
Harteau announced the changes on Tuesday afternoon, including the creation of a quality assurance commander position that she said brings the department in line with modern policing practices.
“We are constantly analyzing where our leaders will fit best, and assessing what experiences they may need as they progress through their careers and our ranks,” Harteau said in a statement. “Each and every one of them brings a unique perspective, level of expertise and skill set to their assigned precincts.”
Beginning July 24, the five police precincts will all be under new leadership.
Michael Sullivan, who used to command the Third Precinct, will move downtown to take over the First Precinct, which had been briefly run by Lt. Erick Fors. Fors was named commander of the Violent Crimes Investigations Division, which oversees the robbery, family violence, sex crimes and forgery/fraud units.
He was one of two lieutenants promoted to the rank of commander.
The other, Lt. Melissa Chiodo, former head of the sex crimes unit, will take over the special crimes investigations division (SCID).
Chiodo, who since joining the force in 1998 has worked in four of the five precincts and had a five-year stint in Internal Affairs, was credited with improving “professional development and recruitment practices” in the early 2000s.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis — the union that represents the department’s rank-and-file officers, said the changes appear to be standard procedure.
“I don’t think it’s a big shake-up. It’s just career progression with people. You replace an inspector by moving people around,” he said. “They don’t leave anybody in place very long.”
New role for Friestleben
Mike Kjos was permanently named Fourth Precinct inspector on the North Side, a post that he once held and was again asked to command in early May when his successor, Michael Friestleben, was placed on administrative leave while Internal Affairs looked into his handling of a stalking case involving one of his officers. The results of that investigation weren’t announced publicly.
Friestleben, who was demoted to his civil service rank of lieutenant, will take over the department’s Community Engagement Team, to which he “brings a wealth of experience and expertise in building relationships with the communities we serve,” the department said.
The popular former inspector, who has drawn praise for his efforts to repair police-community relations on the city’s North Side, was placed on paid leave in early May pending the outcome of an internal investigation. At the time, several prominent community leaders rallied outside Fourth Precinct headquarters to support him. Tuesday’s announcement was once again met with anger and frustration in some quarters.
Lisa Delgado, a co-chairwoman of the department’s Community Engagement Team (unrelated to Friestleben’s new assignment) and a backer of the former inspector, said that his demotion would prove a setback in relations with the North Side. She said that Friestleben’s tough stance on his officers’ conduct during and following protests in the wake of Jamar Clark’s death could have led to low morale among the rank-and-file, and possibly his demotion.
Backers are upset
“Putting him back in the community as the community engagement officer effectively took away any power that he had to effect any change,” Delgado said. “You can’t change the culture when you continue to let good people fall on the sword and then put them in positions where they can do nothing at all.”
Harteau said Tuesday that the changes were made with the departmental goals of improving “employee engagement and morale” in mind.
Also Tuesday, Fifth Precinct Inspector Todd Loining and Inspector Kathy Waite, who commands the Second Precinct, swapped places, while Cmdr. Catherine Johnson was promoted to Third Precinct inspector.
Johnson comes with a criminal investigative background, having most recently commanded SCID and, before that, the violent crimes investigations division, which includes the homicide unit.
Cmdr. Chris Granger is leaving his post with the Violent Crimes Investigations Division to assume the newly formed position of quality assurance commander, working to “bring a new level of accountability and oversight to the MPD,” officials said. Among his new duties, Granger will be responsible for overseeing the department’s use-of-force policy and its fledgling body camera program.