The last couple of months have been challenging for the administration of Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau. She is showing she can meet challenges and seek solutions.
The incidents embarrassing to the department — in Apple Valley, Minnesota, Green Bay, Wisconsin, downtown Minneapolis, the shooting death of Terrance Franklin, etc. — show how the rank and file have become their own worst enemy, creating problems for the department, seeding suspicion in communities of color, and reducing their credibility in White communities.
Chief Janeé Harteau’s recent decision to reach out to Black officers in her department showed she is developing a keen understanding of why and how to bring everyone to the table, demonstrating growth and maturity. She obviously recognizes and is turning away from the bad advice and false information she has received (see my August 14, 2013 column). That shows a commitment to healing. Chief Harteau is doing what all good leaders do, grow into the position and its responsibilities rather than be diminished by them.
Prior to the chief reaching out to them, Black police were not sure of their standing in the department, even though the president of the police federation reached out to them (see my August 7 column). Now the chief is reaching out to show a similar commitment and respect.
As a person of color, and as a person who has fought discrimination and bias in this department, she understands the pain and the burden that one must carry, no matter how far one rises in an organization still discriminating due to old prejudices. But as chief of the department, she appears to be moving towards reconciliation between her department, her office, and the city as a whole.
Not everything will be a success. We’d like to see perfection but we’re realists. Human nature being what it is, there will always be those obstructing and blocking progress (hence the need to continually work for reconciliation and healing).
The good news is that Chief Harteau seems to be thoroughly committed to recruitment, promotion, training, and, most importantly, improving police-community relations. Part of the current challenges are due to her predecessor and city administration not being committed or interested.
As I served five years as co-chair, facilitator and monitor for the Police Community Relations Committee established by the U.S. Department of Justice, along with 17 other colleagues, I understand how challenging and exhausting the chief’s job can be. Hopefully the newly-elected administration’s new mayor and new council members will embrace the spirit of Chief Harteau, so together they can reach out to make this a better city for all who live here, now and in the future.
It is important to recognize and respect courage and commitment to change and a commitment to reconciliation. And so we watch the various agendas closely. We expect the chief to be provided support and resources to continue the healing process, perhaps with a “truth and reconciliation commission” as established by Nelson Mandela in South Africa.
Despite visits by national police expert Wexler, the studies of his police institute, studies by the Federation, the MPD and others, the efforts until the chief’s current action, have been merely to have more meetings to forestall having to take real action. May the City government and MPD heed the chief’s call to demonstrate action for reconciliation and healing.
May Minneapolis heed the wise words of Chief Joseph: “All men were made by the Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers.” And: “Treat all men alike. Give them the same law. Give them an even chance to live and grow.”
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