Minneapolis’ first Black police chief, Medaria Arradondo, has been re-appointed to serve a three-year term. The Minneapolis City Council voted Friday, Dec. 7 to extend Arradondo’s position.
Arradondo has served as interim chief since July 2017 after the former police chief, Janeé Harteau, resigned following the police shooting of an unarmed woman.
“I am thrilled to be celebrating the council’s unanimous move to confirm my appointment of Chief Arradondo to a full term as chief of police,” said Mayor Jacob Frey. “His leadership, character, and commitment to building trust between community and MPD have made him an invaluable partner and a good friend.”
The Minneapolis City Council’s unanimous vote came with little surprise after Arradondo received glowing remarks from the community at a reappointment hearing during the council’s Public Safety & Emergency Management Committee meeting on Nov. 29.
Prominent activists Nekima Levy Armstrong, Al Flowers and Lisa Clemons were among many voicing impassioned support. Minneapolis resident Chuck Turchick’s was the only complaint — though his was about the review process and not Chief Arradondo.
“Democracy is about process, and this process [fails],” said Turchick. “A city ordinance gives the Police Oversight Commission [POC] permission to participate in the performance review of the chief of police. Every time you preclude the POC from participating in performance reviews, you are disrespecting the civilian oversight body you created.”
Levy Armstrong, civil rights attorney and co-founder of Racial Justice Network, told the MSR, “Chief Medaria Arradondo is the right person to help lead the Minneapolis Police Department in a new direction.
Flowers added, “As the first African American chief in Minneapolis history, we’re never going to have a better opportunity for police-community relations. I don’t believe the African American community will have a better opportunity to building those bridges.”
The return of Chief Rondo, as he’s popularly known, comes with complications stemming from the MPD’s history.
“[There is] a culture of violence within the police department, a misogynist culture, also a culture of racism and White supremacy,” asserted Levy Armstrong at the hearing. “So, we have some serious work to do. Rondo cannot do it alone.”
She told the MSR, “[Arradondo] will need the support of the mayor, city council, and community allies to help shift the current problematic culture of MPD, which has been detrimental to the Black community.
“Over the last six months, two men of color have been shot and killed by MPD in North Minneapolis: Thurman Blevins and Travis Jordan. Travis Jordan needed mental health intervention…not bullets. His unnecessary death at the hands of MPD officers reinforces the urgent need for mental health co-responders in North Minneapolis,” Levy Armstrong said.
Clemons, a former MPD sergeant and founder of A Mother’s Love, commented, “When I talked to Chief Arradondo and Deputy Chief Art Knight about Mother’s having a role in the community, they immediately went into action to bring Mother’s to downtown Minneapolis, give a voice down there, and get us a presence. You save the mother, you save the child. You save the child, you save the community.”
Frey appeared briefly, stating, “The relationship between the chief and the mayor is arguably the most important [one] in city hall. The value and necessity we are handling for both public safety and community-police relations, inclusive of accountability, is of the utmost importance. Chief Arradondo has managed to…articulate and take active steps toward a shift in the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department.”
After receiving numerous accolades, Arradondo stated, “The community is here [at the hearing] because they want — even those that are not in support of myself or the police department — a safe city. They want a police department they can trust.”
He added, “This, in a sense, is not my police department. I’m trying to prepare leadership for the next 15, 20 years. We’ve got a lot of young officers and employees, and I want to make sure they have the right pillars of stability, trust. They’re going to need that. “
The strong emphasis placed on changing the culture at the MPD is necessitated by the same attitude that resulted in North Minneapolis’ Fourth Police Precinct Commander Aaron Biard’s demotion after veteran officers Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg desecrated the precinct lobby’s Christmas tree.
They “decorated” it with, among other things, such racially stereotyped objects as a Popeye’s soda cup, a Steel Reserve malt liquor can, a bag of Funyuns and a pack of menthol cigarettes. [See MSR’s Dec. 6 story “Cop’s racist Christmas tree shocks North Minneapolis.”]
“I am ashamed and appalled by the behavior of those who would feel comfortable to act in such a manner that goes against our core department values of trust, accountability and professional service,” said Arradondo in a statement following the Dec. 1 incident.
Frey denounced it as well and called for the officers to be dismissed. After no such action took place, activist Rev. Jerry McAfee, questioned the power dynamics between the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis (POFM) and Arradondo.
McAfee, who had not attended the hearing, told MSR, “You see how Jacob Frey backed up off of wanting to fire [the offending officers]. He had to because the union [POFM] is too strong. I’m pleased with Rondo, but he is not the issue — the issue is how the union responds. The chief can say certain things, [but] if the line officers don’t get it, it doesn’t matter what he says.”
Additionally, Arradondo will be trying to make vital changes with the significant disadvantage of reduced resources. The city council voted on Nov. 30 to cut the mayor’s proposed MPD budget by $1.1 million for 2019. “We’re asking him to do more with less,” Clemons told the MSR. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”
Arradondo’s first full term begins January 1. He has identified improving police-community relations as among his top priorities.