You may not be familiar with the 2002 release of the movie Dark Blue, starring Kurt Russell, Ving Rhames and Kurupt, among others. Rhames plays Assistant Chief Arthur Holland. Although not based on a true story, the film is filled with actual historical events, which ironically have a similar cadence of topic with current events. Toward the end of the film, Rhames proudly declares his new position as the “first Black police chief of Los Angeles.”
With Minneapolis’ new interim police chief, Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo, this may just become true for the city of Minneapolis, provided the city council approves his appointment.
Since the death of Jamar Clark, it seems the Twin Cities has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons (except for the 2018). Over the last few weeks there has been an uproar of concerns not only in Minneapolis, but nationwide, in Australia and the world. The recent South Minneapolis shooting of Australian Justine Damond, who was shot and killed by Mohamed Noor of Somali descent, raised concerns regarding racial dynamics and the practice of law enforcement.
With the ongoing occurrence of police brutality and the headlines Minnesota has made, this particular shooting seemed to have reversed the way people think about law enforcement as the solution for resolving chaos in socially disenfranchised environments.
On Friday, July 21, a rally was held at Loring Park to display solidarity over Damond’s death. Demonstrators marched to City Hall, blocking traffic. Hours before the rally, Janeé Harteau announced her resignation as Minneapolis police chief at the request of Mayor Betsy Hodges, who attempted to hold a press conference during the rally.
During the mayor’s press conference, demonstrators pushed past locked doors and took over the event. (See last week’s MSR story “Harteau’s exit cheered; mayor urged to do same.”
On Thursday, July 27, a press conference was called at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church for a show of support for Arradondo. Present to voice their concerns were MADDADS; community activist Spike Moss; African American Leadership Council President Tyrone Terrell; President of NAACP St. Paul Diane Bimms; and pastor of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church, Jerry McAfee.
“[Minnesota] is the only state that has a perfect record of excusing every cop for everything they’ve ever done,” said Moss. “[But] long before this happened, they were pulling us over and writing unnecessary tickets. Long before, they would use the n-word as they addressed us. This is about the people who have suffered the most and suffered the longest on both sides of the river.”
Moss shared a few examples of historic events, not only to remind Minneapolis residents of past wrongdoings, but to support Arradondo’s new position as an important one. “I can tell you about the corruption,” he said.
“I took the case of the young Indian boy from South Minneapolis, [the police] beating him up and knocking him in the snow in St. Paul. I took the case of the Asian family that was accused of having a grenade in the house. Instead of evacuating the family, they throw a grenade in the house. It’s a joke in this city for our people of color.”
Arradondo, a 28-year Minneapolis police veteran, is a graduate of Roosevelt High School. He also has a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice from Metropolitan State University. He has served on patrol, internal affairs, and property crimes throughout North Minneapolis.
Debbie Montgomery was also present in a show of support. She was the first Black woman recruited by the St. Paul Police Department in 1975; she retired in 2003. “I know he’s engaged, because I’ve known and worked with him,” she said of Arradondo.
“His commitment to community, his engagement has been well received. That’s what it is about community building and policing. It’s being engaged with community and understanding the issues that are out there,” said Montgomery.
In 2007, Arradondo was part of the Mill City Five, a group of African American officers who sued Minneapolis alleging a culture of racial discrimination and retaliation. They won a six-figure settlement.
When asked if Arradondo’s new position would alter the perception of racial dynamics in the department, McAfee stated his support while still speaking of the underlying problems within and outside the department. “While we all wholeheartedly support Arradondo, it is a corrupt system. Hear us clear: Arradondo can have all the greatest ideas, [but] if the union and line officers [are] fighting against it, [it won’t work].”
Sister Oracle, an elder from the community, said, “As a community we have been fighting for a long time, and this moment is more than necessary. When in the valley of the fight for our people’s rights, which we never had, we are looking forward to having disappointment confirmed.
“[Arradondo] has earned the respect of the community, the officers, and has shown our young people that they are somebody. We need someone who can bring peace, justice and fairness, to not only the African American community, but to those who are disturbed by cars that read ‘Protect and Serve.’”
Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ivan B. Phifer is contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com