Minneapolis chief resigns after police killing of Australian
MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau resigned Friday at the request of the mayor, who said she lost confidence in the chief after last week’s fatal shooting of an unarmed Australian woman by a police officer.
In a statement released Friday, Harteau said: “I’ve decided I am willing to step aside to let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done for the MPD to be the very best it can be.”
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges said in a statement that she asked for the chief’s resignation.
“I’ve lost confidence in the chief’s ability to lead us further. … It is clear that she has lost the confidence of the people of Minneapolis as well,” Hodges said. “For us to continue to transform policing — and community trust in policing — we need new leadership at [the Minneapolis Police Department].”
Hours later, Hodges tried to elaborate on Harteau’s departure at a City Hall news conference, but a few dozen protesters walked in and shouted her down. They waved signs with the phrases “Messy Betsy” and “You are next” on them and chanted “Bye-bye Betsy.” Hodges eventually gave up and left.
Harteau, who worked her way up from the bottom of the department to police chief, said she was proud of the work she accomplished and was honored to serve as chief but that the shooting of 40-year-old Justine Damond by one of her officers and other incidents “have caused me to engage in deep reflection.”
She added, “Despite the MPD’s many accomplishments under my leadership over these years and my love for the City, I have to put the communities we serve first.”
Harteau was out of the city on personal time for nearly a week after Saturday’s shooting of Damond, a life coach and bride-to-be who was killed by an officer responding to her 911 call of a possible rape.
The state is investigating the shooting. In Harteau’s first remarks on the case Thursday — when she returned to work — she was sharply critical of officer Mohamed Noor, who is Somali-American, while defending his training.
“These were the actions and judgment of one individual,” she said Thursday.
That wasn’t enough for some City Council members. Linea Palmisano, who represents the ward where Damond died, called for a change in leadership Friday and told her fellow council members that she was “done with image control and crisis management” and that it’s “time for action.”
Shortly after the announcement, Hodges nominated Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo to be the next chief. He served as the department’s public face after Damond’s shooting while Harteau was out of town.
Arradondo has been with the department since 1989.
Harteau has spent her career with the department, starting as a beat cop in 1987 when she was 22. She worked her way up the ranks and in 2012 was appointed chief, becoming the city’s first female, first openly gay and first American Indian police chief.
But she had become a political liability for Hodges, who’s in a tough re-election fight. Their relationship was strained, particularly after the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark during a confrontation with two white police officers in 2015.
The black man’s death, amid heightened tensions around the U.S., sparked protests citywide that included an 18-day occupation outside the police station on the city’s north side. A U.S. Department of Justice review faulted poor communications between the mayor and the chief.
It didn’t help that Harteau was out of town when Damond was killed. Harteau, who said she was backpacking in an area with limited cellphone reception, told reporters Thursday that it would have been “challenging” to return but that she had kept in touch with her command staff.