Aaron Biard, a veteran Minneapolis police lieutenant whose 22-year department career included duty in training, traffic and sex crime units, was named 4th Precinct Inspector Tuesday.
He was promoted to fill the vacancy left by Mike Kjos, who earlier this year was named to deputy chief of the Operations Bureau. The position remained unfilled for two months after Chief Janeé Harteau’s previous pick for the job was vetoed by Mayor Betsy Hodges, sparking a heated public feud between the two.
Biard will begin his new role Aug. 20.
He started with the department in 1995, spending time in traffic, sex crime and Police Activities League units in three precincts, according to a department news release. He also was a SWAT trainer and served on a review board that handles police misconduct complaints.
He earned a criminal justice degree from St. Cloud State University and later served in the state National Guard, completing two tours of duty, according to department officials.
Most recently, Biard worked as lieutenant in charge of the “daywatch” shift in the 4th precinct.
In a statement announcing the move, Harteau said Biard had “earned the respect of both the officers of the 4th Precinct and the countless neighborhood leaders.”
“He is a proven leader, community builder and problem-solver and I have no doubt he will continue to carry on the successful neighborhood engagement and law enforcement initiatives that have reduced violent crime in the Precinct,” Harteau said.
Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll, who supervised Biard as a patrol officer in the 3rd precinct, said he supported the chief’s pick.
“He’s a good candidate, because he’s respected both ways: the people below him like him, and the same with those he reports to,” said Kroll, adding that Lt. Arthur Knight, another North Side mainstay, was also considered for the post.
But, he questioned the chief’s process for promoting a lieutenant to inspector, over other qualified candidates of higher rank. Doing so “dilutes the merit of the process,” he argued.
“I don’t have any dispute with the pick; to me it just proves that she does things out of order,” he said. “I’m sure Janeé got the approval from the mayor before going ahead with this.”
The appointment comes after Mayor Betsy Hodges blocked the chief’s previous chosen inspector, Lt. John Delmonico, a former union president. At the time, Hodges said that “we need another kind of leadership for the next phase of the work that we are doing to build trust and transform relationships between police and community.”
But Harteau initially stood by her decision, setting off a messy back-and-forth between her and the mayor that played out in public.
On Tuesday, Hodges commended the chief for “maintaining a transparent, thorough process in identifying Lt. Biard.
“Chief Harteau and I have been in communication throughout, and as a result, I’m confident the 4th Precinct is in good hands,” she said.
Biard inherits a precinct with neighborhoods marked often by distrust of police. It’s where Jamar Clark was killed in 2015 during a scuffle with two Minneapolis police officers, setting up weeks of protests outside the precinct’s headquarters. His predecessor, Michael Friestleben, was outed from the post and demoted after he violated department policy by waiting months to report the stalking of the female officer by a former high school classmate.
Council Member Blong Yang, chairman of the council's the Public Safety Committee, said that the post is fraught with challenges.
“I think you need somebody’s who’s thoughtful. I think you need somebody’s who’s very community oriented, as well. I think you need to balance it,” said Yang, whose ward encompasses parts of the North Side. Yang urged residents to give Biard a chance.
“Some folks in or community would argue that you need somebody’s who’s cut from the same cloth as Lt. Friestleben,” Yang said.