Several Minneapolis police officers issued a public letter Thursday condemning the killing of George Floyd, embracing Chief Medaria Arradondo and vowing to work toward regaining public trust.
The letter, obtained by the Star Tribune, begins, “Dear Everyone — but especially Minneapolis citizens,” and says it represents how the “vast majority” of Minneapolis police officers feel.
“We want to work with you and for you to regain your trust,” it read, while also making clear that the letter is not representative of the Police Officers’ Federation of Minneapolis, with which Arradondo said Wednesday that he was halting contract negotiations.
The writers “wholeheartedly condemn” fired officer Derek Chauvin, who is in jail awaiting trial on a second-degree murder charge in Floyd’s death. Chauvin was captured on video pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck on a south Minneapolis street on May 25 as Floyd pleaded for breath before losing consciousness. Two other officers, J Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, held Floyd down, and a third, Tou Thao, kept onlookers at bay. They were also fired and are charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
“Like us, Derek Chauvin took an oath to hold the sanctity of life most precious,” the officers wrote. “Derek Chauvin failed as a human and stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life. This is not who we are.”
The four officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired by Arradondo the next day. The crime ignited days of protests and led to the current movement to defund or disband the Minneapolis Police Department. Mayor Jacob Frey has said he supports reforms in the department, not a wholesale deconstruction, while nine members of the City Council have said they want to “begin the process of ending” the department.
The letter writers declined further comment, saying the letter speaks for itself. But their action marked a rare example of officers taking a stand outside their ranks.
The signees include some of the department’s most prominent and respected officers, including Cmdr. Charlie Adams, who now runs its community engagement efforts.
Lt. Mark Klukow, who now works in the First Precinct in downtown Minneapolis, provided security for former Mayor R.T. Rybak, as did officer Mike Kirchen. The two also worked as “Bike Cops for Kids” for years in north Minneapolis, delivering donated bicycles to children and taking them to Twins games.
Other names on the letter are Lt. Rick Zimmerman, who runs the homicide unit, and Sgt. Darcy Klund, who commands the First Precinct community response team, two of the most experienced homicide investigators in the past three decades. John Delmonico, the former head of the union that represents the police, also was a signee.
“We are leaders, formal and informal, and from all ranks within the Minneapolis Police Department,” the letter said. “We’re not the union or the administration. We are officers who represent the voices of hundreds of other Minneapolis Police Officers. Hundreds. We acknowledge that Chief Arradondo needs each of us to dutifully follow him while he shows us the way.”
The others who signed the letter include officers Christie Nelson, Nick Torborg, Pete Stanton, Gary Nelson, Rich Jackson, Mohamed Abdullahi, Molly Fischer and Steve McCarty.
Also Thursday, a group of community civil rights activists expressed support for Arradondo.
The group of more than two dozen, led by Nekima Levy Armstrong and the Rev. Brian Herron, also called for the police union to prove it’s on the side of public safety by ousting elected union chief Bob Kroll.
Levy Armstrong said council members who called for disbanding or defunding the police are trying to make political points without offering specific proposals. None of the activists was informed or consulted about the ideas before nine council members endorsed them last weekend, she said.
“They’re usurping the will of the people by jumping so far ahead without actually” consulting activists, Levy Armstrong said.
Arradondo, however, immediately fired the four officers involved in Floyd’s death and moved to sever discussions with the union, she said.
Rev. Jerry McAfee and Herron made clear, however, that both the chief and Mayor Jacob Frey had their support.
After the news conference, some members of the group were upstairs in a large conference room talking candidly to Frey about wanting to be involved in community building, bringing in jobs and keeping out crime.
“No one’s attacking you, but we’re at you because you’re the man,” said Alfonzo Willis, a contractor who lives in the city. “The world is watching; we need to send the right message.”
V.J. Smith, president of the Minneapolis Chapter of MAD DADS, a nonprofit that fights drug abuse and social destruction, said the right people are present and willing to do the work, but they also need access to good jobs with benefits and help from the city. “We have the greatest opportunity, mayor, to change the community,” he said.
Frey listened intently and thanked everyone for their leadership and commitment. “As we move forward, it will be black voices, it will be your voices, at the center of this change,” he said.
Later Thursday, several hundred people gathered at a rally outside the Hennepin County Government Center. Wearing masks and holding signs, the crowd listened as speakers took the stage for more than an hour.
Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said a year is too long to wait to reform the Police Department — an allusion to City Council President Lisa Bender saying a pledge to begin the process was the start of a “yearlong conversation.”
“We’re not waiting a year for justice,” Gross said. “There are things they could have been doing all along the way.“
“Now is not the time to be quiet,” said Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond. “Now it’s time to get loud. It’s time to represent. Now is the time to activate like we’ve never activated before.”
Staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.