Public hearing on MPD chief aired pros and cons

Majority spoke in support of ‘Rondo’ Arradondo

Top (l-r) Chief Arradondo, Peter Hayden of Turning Point. Bottom (l-r) Jerry McAfee, Mayor Hodges with Chief Arradondo; Mpls mayoral candidate Al Flowers (Photos by Chris Juhn/MSR News)

 

Recent killings by Minneapolis police and the subsequent resignation of former police chief Janeé Harteau have brought national attention to Minneapolis, most recently over who will be her successor. On Wednesday, August 9, 75-100 community members showed up at the Minneapolis City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Emergency Management Committee public hearing in an effort to influence that decision.

Most were there to support the council’s nomination of Medaria “Rondo” Arradondo to be the city’s next police chief. People were standing in the hallways waiting for seats.

Before the community spoke, Arradondo expressed his willingness to be held accountable not only to the department’s 855 members but to the city’s 400,000 residents as well, and his eagerness to assume the new position.

(Chris Juhn/MSR News)

“I could not stand before you without acknowledging the sacrifices and struggles made by elders, family and the community,” he said. “Those who supported me and those who have not supported me, I listen to them as well. I remain as a product of all those voices, to be the best leader I can. Those who have different voices and opinions, I want to meet and learn from and listen to them. The ultimate goal is to have a community process where we are looked at as being legitimate…”

During over two hours of testimony relating personal experiences, a majority of the speakers expressed the need for change in the department. However, some are still skeptical and unsure how Arradondo’s appointment will affect policies and procedures in the police department.

A community member from South Minneapolis’ Ward 12 expressed some disdain based on his experience with law enforcement five years ago. He recalled how he and his mother were brutalized when police entered their home without a warrant.

“I am a disabled American veteran,” he said. “No one listened to us, or believed us. How can the police be afraid of a 96-year-old woman and a disabled old man? No one believed us until Justine Damond. Now they believe.”

The community elder questioned Arradondo’s validity, referring to the recent Damond killing as the latest in a string of police murders. “It was only by the grace of God me and my mother were not murdered that day. Where was Mr. Arradondo when Al Flowers was brutalized? Where was Mr. Arradondo when Terrance Franklin was murdered, when Jamar Clark was murdered, when Philando Castile was murdered, when the gangs were terrorizing the city and taking over property? Where was he?”

The speaker even claimed Arradondo may have had a connection with the “people who terrorized him.” Could [Arradondo] have suppressed an internal affairs report that had disappeared? “If you appoint this gentleman, you are just replacing Janeé Harteau with the same thing, even something worse.”

A North Minneapolis community resident who lives on 33rd and Freemont said she does a lot of community work on the North Side and knows “Rondo” from the neighborhood as well. “Rondo knows the community and knows what needs to happen on the North Side,” she said. “To be quite honest, I don’t have a feeling that this department gives a rat’s [expletive] what happens to the North Side. I believe Arradondo cares about the people in the community, both White and Black. He is the one person who can connect with the community and the police department.”

Rev. Jerry McAfee (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

Jerry McAfee, pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in North Minneapolis, stated his support for Arradondo but added that procedures in the department should change along with the change of a new chief. “If you only put Rondo in the same position and don’t change the structure, we will be back again for another chief.”

McAfee expressed how recent events in Minneapolis such as the killing of Justine Damond have called attention to a concern that has been ignored for years. “The ultimate insult for us Black people is when we seen the response of what happened to our sister over South. We’ve been saying what has been happening to us for years, but nobody heard it coming from us.”

Several rank-and-file officers from the force also professed their support. “I expect that he’s going to be a great chief with the help [of Mayor Betsy Hodges],” said Lt. Rick Zimmerman, stating that Arradondo has always focused on a crucial aspect of police work: building relationships.

Metro Transit Police Lt. Anthony Hines (Chris Juhn/MSR News)

“He is the community. I don’t think there’s been a chief here in the last 30 years that has been so ingrained and rooted in the city of Minneapolis,” said Metro Transit Police Lt. Anthony Hines, president of the National Black Police Association’s Minnesota chapter. “Rondo, I just want you to remember one thing you told me, probably in 1995: ‘Be respectful, professional, and we’re nothing without the community we serve.”

Arradondo said he is still in awe of the position he will be assuming, but he also recognizes the responsibilities that come along with the job. “It still hasn’t settled in just yet,” he said. “The support from the community is overwhelming. This is the first time for all of us.

“It’s critically important that I earn the respect of both the community and the department members. I will need the help and support of our rank-and-file and community to change the culture paradigm shift in the police department.

“This will not happen overnight, but we are in this together. When an officer tarnishes that badge, we should be the first ones to call it out and hold ourselves accountable. I feel hopeful and steadfast we can move forward together. I’m humbled and honored for your consideration [as chief of police].”

 

Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader responses to ivan.b.phifer@gmail.com.