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Exclusive interview: Can Arradondo change police culture?

By Harry Colbert, Jr.
Managing Editor –

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo during an exclusive interview with Insight News. Bianca Rhodes

The name on the window at Room 130 in Minneapolis City Hall has changed; and with that change many are hoping for a shift in culture.

Room 130 houses the office of the police chief of Minneapolis. The new name on the window is Chief Medaria Arradondo. It’s Arradondo’s job to maintain the loyalty of his officers, but most importantly, to restore public trust in a department that had been described as out of control and trigger happy. With citizen anger still brewing from the November 2015 killing of unarmed Jamar Clark by two Minneapolis police officers, it was the July 15 killing of Justine Damond – killed by police after she called to report a suspected sexual assault – that ultimately led to the career demise of former chief, Janeé Harteau and the appointment by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges of Arradondo. A 28-year veteran of the force, Arradondo is the first African-American to serve as chief.

Already, just days after his appointment, the new chief ushered in new policy in regard to body cameras, mandating they be turned on the moment an officer responds to a call. There was public outrage when it was learned that neither officer in the Damond killing had activated their body cameras. But change in policy does not equate to a change in culture. For that, Arradondo said in a one-on-one interview with Insight News it will take time.

“I have a blueprint in terms of what I’m looking at doing that will have systemic or long-term culture change,” said Arradondo. “We need to look at a lot of things – everything from our hiring, everything from our phycological testing, everything from our de-escalation training, which we do a lot of; our communication. If we’re truly going to change culture we have to look at all of those things.”

Arradondo said there also needs to be a conversation centered on officer health and wellness.

“As a product of Minneapolis, I recognize there is both historical trauma and current-day trauma in many of our communities, and I also recognize from being a peace officer for almost the past three decades that officers can also endure secondary trauma,” said the chief. “I want to make sure we have healthy officers out there. I think that’s a benefit to them and certainly to our communities.”

Restoring public trust will be an ongoing mission for Arradondo. He said in order to do that, some simple tasks need to be performed by his officers.

“We need to make sure officers utilize opportunities to get out of their squad cars and interact and engage with the community … spend time at the community meetings, at the rec centers talking to youth,” said Arradondo, who said the most recent class of recruits was required to perform community service. He said the soon-to-be officers spent time building the playground at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis. “I want our hires … our new recruits … to understand the importance of giving back to the community.”

It’s far too so to begin talk about the legacy that Arradondo will leave behind, but he said he knows the culture of policing in Minneapolis can shift.

“I firmly believe the Minneapolis Police Department will be on the right side of history when the final chapter is written,” said Arradondo.

August 7, 2017
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