By Harry Colbert, Jr., Managing Editor
Despite community opposition, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau is sticking by her decision to promote Lt. John Delmonico as the commander of the department’s 4th Precinct.
Harteau publicly announced last week that she had chosen Delmonico to take over as inspector – the lead position within the precinct. That decision was met with immediate community pushback from those who remember Delmonico as longtime president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis and as someone who they say is an antagonist of Black citizens. Harteau’s decision to promote Delmonico was overruled by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges following community outcry.
Contempt for Delmonico came to a head in 2014 when he was a prime instigator in the now infamous #PointerGate story involving Hodges and Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC) worker, Navell Gordon. Gordon and Hodges posed for a photo with the two pointing at one another. In a story that was presented by KSTP-TV – and lambasted nationally including in a segment on CNN – the two were accused of throwing gang signs. Delmonico called Gordon a “known gang member,” which was never proven. Furthering the outrage was the fact that Gordon and the mayor were out registering citizens to vote at the time of the photo.
In an email sent May 1 by Harteau to all police officers and obtained by Insight News through a data records request, the chief said her decision to promote Delmonico to inspector of the troubled 4th precinct was the right one.
“I want each and every one of you to know that I will always stand by my decision. Lt. John Delmonico has deep community partnerships and for the past year has led a team of nightwatch [sic] officers that have been key in bringing this precinct much-needed, drastic reductions in violent crime,” wrote Harteau.
The chief said she is disappointed that this process of selecting an inspector has been so public. Once she made the public announcement, Hodges came out in a statement overruling the decision. Since then, Harteau has released text messages between herself and the mayor in which the mayor says it is “Your call, though I have a question or two,” when she was informed of Heateau’s choice of Delmonico to head the 4th and, “Great. Love that” when Harteau said Delmonico had the respect in the department and can handle the politics of the job, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Hodges appeared to reverse course once NOC worker Wintana Melekin posted in outrage on her Facebook page about the decision to promote Delmonico with the mayor saying the “progressive community remembers he commented on Pointergate,” and he said “racist stuff.”
“The latest saga between Chief Harteau and Mayor Hodges is yet another illustration of the dysfunction and breakdowns of communication that plague city leadership. Chief Harteau should have known better than to appoint Lt. Delmonico to become Inspector of the 4th Precinct given his role in the racist #Pointergate scandal and his disturbing comments surrounding the death of Terrance Franklin,” said Former NAACP president, Nekima Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney and candidate for mayor of Minneapolis.
In the killing of Franklin by Minneapolis police, Delmonico called Franklin a “criminal” who was responsible for his own death. Police contend Franklin was attacking them at the time of the shooting, but in a lawsuit filed by the family of Franklin they assert he was complaint, with his hands up at the time of the fatal shooting. Two police officers were shot during the incident with official reports saying Franklin got a hold of an officer’s gun to shoot the wounded officers.
Levy-Pounds said Hodges is as much at fault as Harteau is for the kerfuffle.
“This decision also reflects poorly upon Mayor Hodges’ leadership of the city, as she initially seemed supportive of the decision to appoint Delmonico, without any regard to concerns of North Minneapolis residents. Hence, it’s time for new leadership in our city,” said Levy-Pounds.
Insight News reached out to the mayor’s office for comment but was unsuccessful in its attempts to speak with the mayor. A spokesperson did return our call and said the mayor was unavailable to speak with us at the time, but she was never on board with the promoting of Delmonico.
In the May 1 email Harteau said many candidates have expressed reservations in accepting the inspector’s position if offered.
“Although we have many great leaders to choose from, I have heard from many of you that the recent events may make potential candidates hesitant to accept this position, and I understand why some may feel that way,” wrote the chief.
Minneapolis’ 4th Precinct has been a lightning rod for controversy for some time with community and police tensions coming to a boil following the November 2015 police killing of 24-year-old Jamar Clark – an unarmed citizen. Clark was killed just a block from the precinct headquarters. Following the homicide community members set up camp outside of the 4th Precinct – an around the clock protest that lasted 18 days.
“This decision by Chief Harteau is a slap in the face to the Northside community,” said Raeisha Williams, who was a vocal protester following the Clark killing and who is a candidate for Minneapolis City Council in the city’s 5th Ward. “In no way would Delmonico’s appointment curb the police brutality that we experience at the hands of 4th precinct officers, and in fact, it would likely have increased under his leadership and direction.”
Jeremiah Ellison, also an active protester and DFL endorsed candidate for the 5th Ward city council seat, said though he too agrees that Delmonico was not the right person for the job, the bigger issue is that that community was not given the opportunity to participate in the process.
“The real issue is that Northsiders were not involved in the picking of the inspector,” said Ellison. “That in itself is troubling in itself.”