The former Minneapolis chief of police department, Janeé Harteau, says she was unable to overcome the department’s “systemic racism” in large part because of the police union which made it difficult to discipline officers.
“There has been certainly, I believe, systemic racism and frankly systemic inequalities in every government institution, including police departments,” Harteau said in an interview on the Law&Crime Network’s Brian Ross Investigates.
“Including your former police department?” Brian Ross asked.
“I would include mine. We’re not unlike other departments,” she replied.
Harteau said her efforts to reform her department were often frustrated by the police union.
“It was beyond frustrating. I had terminated officers. Even lower levels of discipline would be grieved by the unions,” she said.
“Arbitrators over 50, 60 percent of the time would overturn my decision to terminate an officer,” Harteau said.
Minneapolis Police Department records reviewed by Law&Crime show Officer Derek Chauvin was the subject of at least 18 complaints involving police brutality over the last decade. Only one of those complaints resulted in discipline.
“Unfortunately, we have systems that don’t work effectively for each individual,” Harteau said.
“We do have challenges with past practice. We look at certainly just individual cases at the time and they don’t necessarily aggregate and we don’t have effective early warning systems for most police departments to really get things while they’re small, addressed them and make sure they don’t become larger,” she added.
The former chief said she never knew Chauvin but she was repulsed by what she saw on the videos played in court.
“I was just sickened and thought to myself and actually spoke out loud. I can’t believe I’m going to watch a guy die on TV at the hands of a police officer,” Harteau said. “It’s just something that you don’t see, thankfully, but something that should have never happened.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified Monday that Chauvin did not follow policy when kneeling on the neck of George Floyd during a fateful arrest on May 25, 2020.
Arradondo testified that the defendant’s actions were not de-escalation, and violated policy.
“A conscious neck restraint, by policy, mentions light to moderate pressure,” he said. “When I look a exhibit 17 [a picture of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck], and when I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear in any way shape or form that that is light to moderate pressure.”
Like the current Minneapolis police chief, Harteau is familiar with the unrest following high-profile police killings.
Harteau, who worked her way up the ranks, was appointed chief in 2012. She was forced to resign in 2017 after 40-year-old Justine Damond, who had called to report a crime, was shot dead by an officer, Mohamed Noor. Noor was later convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison.
When asked what she thinks would be a just outcome in the Chauvin trial, Harteau said: “I really think that the outcome will speak for itself, I think we all know what should happen and I would expect that to happen.”
[image via BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images]
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