Minneapolis police Chief Medaria Arradondo has appointed new inspectors to two police precincts and elevated a 25-year department veteran to the rank of deputy chief of patrol.
New deputy chief Kathy Waite, most recently the inspector in the southwest Minneapolis Fifth Precinct, will move downtown to oversee the department’s roughly 400 patrol officers. Since joining the department in 1993, she has held a variety of jobs, from K-9 officer to working as a negotiator on the SWAT team. Before taking over the Southwest precinct, she was the inspector in the Second Precinct in northeast Minneapolis.
Waite, who was once was a finalist for the Blaine police chief job, is best known to colleagues and activists for championing mental health initiatives in the department, including overseeing the co-responder pilot program, which is expected to expand citywide later this year.
Arradondo hinted at the changes last month, saying he hoped to ensure the force is a better one “long after I’m gone.”
Three of the four promotees announced at a news conference Thursday were women. That ratio wasn’t lost on Waite.
She said she hopes that her ascension into the front office will “show other women coming up that it’s possible to have a successful leadership career and still have a life.”
Her replacement, Amelia Huffman, agreed that “it’s great to have more women in leadership roles,” but said that officials needed to “concentrate on the pipelines” — or recruiting more female officers.
Huffman, whose department career has spanned more than two decades and included stints in internal affairs and as the head of the homicide unit; she also served as the department’s spokesperson during the Interstate - 35W bridge collapse. The southwest Minneapolis resident has had three separate stints in her home precinct spanning eight years — most recently as a lieutenant.
Lt. Kelvin Pulphus, who used to head the procedural justice unit, was named the new inspector in North Minneapolis’ Fourth Precinct. The decision came after a monthslong search during which Arradondo interviewed all 60-plus lieutenants, commanders and inspectors and held a listening session to gather public input.
Lt. Aaron Biard, the previous inspector, was demoted after two of his officers decorated the precinct’s Christmas tree with items that were seen by some as racially insensitive.
Still, Pulphus said, he learned a lot about the demands of the job from both Biard and Michael Friestleben, a beloved former inspector who retired from the department last year.
As the commander of the North Side precinct, Pulphus said he believes his role is to work closely with residents while supporting his officers — always a tricky balancing act. And crime is a constant concern.
“This is a tough job — I envision getting as much help from everybody that I can,” said the veteran of the child abuse, robbery and homicide units.
Also promoted was Lt. Katie Blackwell, who became a commander of the Leadership and Organizational Development Division. She replaces Cmdr. Todd Sauvageau, who asked to step down, according to a department spokeswoman.
Blackwell, considered a rising star in the force since her days in the homicide unit, most recently served as a training supervisor.