Mpls Blacks see cause for hope in new MPD chief
On a typical December night in Minneapolis — low temperature and below-zero wind chills — the Urban League office at 2100 Plymouth Ave N. was filled with expressions of warmth and triumph as Northside residents celebrated and honored MPD Chief Medaria Arradondo. The Dec. 6 event was coordinated by the Urban League and the African American Leadership Forum (AALF).
“We are in a unique moment of celebration and history, “said Urban League CEO and President Steve Belton, “to celebrate one of our own being elevated into this historic position for our community.” The celebratory mood was enhanced by smooth jazz from Trio Milie and a variety of finger-food treats.
As Belton stated, this is a unique moment in Minneapolis history as African Americans assume new positions of power and political office, including Jeremiah Ellison (son of U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison) elected to the city council in North Minneapolis’ Fifth Ward, Phillipe Cunningham’s election to the council from the North Side’s Fourth Ward, Andrea Jenkins’ Eighth Ward council victory, and St. Paul’s first elected Black mayor Melvin Carter. Minneapolis appointed Arradondo its 53rd police chief on September 8, 2017, the city’s first Black chief in the city’s 150-year history.
“As chief of police, it obviously comes with a great deal of responsibility,” said Arradondo. “With that responsibility, I have to be really focused in making sure I lead this department to provide the best service to our communities free of discrimination, free of hate and free of biases.”
The death of Justine Damond (with the ethnic backgrounds of victim and police literally reversed from previous incidents) has become the third police shooting in the Twin Cities to gain national and global attention.
“Not only do I recognize the history of policing, I recognize what that history of policing has resulted in. Policing our country has not served African Americans. It was never intended to serve us. I use that history to make sure when I am directing the vision of our police department to keep that in the back of my mind.”
Following the shooting and killing of Damond by a Minneapolis police officer, Mayor Betsy Hodges decided that Janee Harteau should step down as police chief and Arradondo would be her replacement.
“After the unfortunate shooting of Justine, things changed,” said Sylvia Bartley, Medtronic’s director of global philanthropy. “When something bad happens, I always look for the good that comes out of it. What came from this unfortunate incident was this man [Arradondo] got appointed as chief of police for Minneapolis.”
Bartley related feedback from the community describing Arradondo as “the guy we are hanging on to hope for” and someone “giving us new hope in the community.”
Arradondo stated that building trust with the community and being truthful with the community go hand in hand. “The first time you are untruthful will be remembered forever. You must earn the trust of the community that you serve.”
Arradondo also stated that the conduct expected of an officer applies on and off duty. “Don’t think that if you commit misconduct off duty, that you can put this uniform back on Monday and you’re a different person. We have to really live and be in that character of who we want to be and who we want our community to look up to. We also have to be positive role models for our children.”
One resident commented that the St. Paul community has more Black police officers from the community and asked Arradondo how the police force in Minneapolis can achieve the same diversity. “The high-profile cases [that have come out of Minnesota] have branded our police force,” Arradondo replied. “Say a group of Black men are asked to pick a profession between business and criminal justice. They are going to pick business without a doubt.
“We need more men from our community in this profession. At the same time, these men have to believe that this profession will respect them, [that] they will be valued as guardians for their community.”
In light of his new position and responsibility, Arradondo also told the community he expects to be held accountable. “I do not get a pass. You have to hold me accountable. If I do not deliver on the things that I am saying to you, I would want you to get another chief, truly.”
Arradondo encouraged everyone to speak up and become involved with not only the community but the people who “run” the community. “When your local council holds meetings, show up. I will meet you if you need a briefing beforehand. I want our community to be important because public safety impacts us.
“Let your voices be heard.”
Ivan B. Phifer welcomes reader responses to ivan.b.phifer @gmail.com.
See more photos below by Chris Juhn