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Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau will keep her job, but not without critics

"I see her changing the culture of the police department from within."

"I see her changing the culture of the police department from within."

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau is up for reappointment, and the city's Committee of the Whole has decided unanimously that she deserves another three years as the top cop. The City Council will vote Friday whether to make it official.

Harteau is the first woman police chief in Minneapolis' history. She's also the first openly gay person to have command of the department. 

This past year has been tense for community-police relations, however. Harteau took heat for the disputed death of Jamar Clark, as well as police officers' treatment of protesters during Black Lives Matter's ensuing 18-day occupation of the 4th Precinct. An uptick in gun violence in 2015 led others to accuse her of being too soft on crime. 

At the same time, residents gave Harteau credit for her "MPD 2.0" program of transforming the department into a kinder, more engaged force, for actually firing officers for misconduct, and for adhering to public demands that officer-related shootings be independently investigated. 

Twenty-six Minneapolis residents gave their opinions on Harteau prior to Wednesday's vote. More than half supported keeping her as chief, though a half-dozen speakers had forceful criticism. 

One vehemently opposed Harteau because she has not pushed to disarm the police force. "Let's make it like it is in London where police don't have guns," John Folta said. "Let's use the policemen's pension to pay the fines once they violate someone's civil liberties or once they kill someone."

The next, north Minneapolis flower shop owner Phil Murphy, painted a dismal picture of a neighborhood overrun with crime as a result of Harteau's community policing strategy. 

"North Minneapolis has literally been laid to waste by crime, especially in the last three years," Murphy said. "My employees, my skilled floral designers, will not come to north Minneapolis anymore because of the crime. So the council, the media, people talk about wanting jobs, opportunities in north Minneapolis, well let me tell you: There aren’t any because of the crime, the guns, the gangs. There’s nothing here."

Twenty-year resident Alan Morrison also opposed Harteau's reappointment, because of an encounter he had with police months ago. Morrison, a 51-year-old father with no criminal record, accuses an officer of choking him into unconsciousness. He believes that Harteau has avoided meeting with him to discuss it because he is black.

Fourth Precinct protester Yolanda Hare spoke of the way police jeered at protesters, maced them, and hit them with batons.

"I have never done anything wrong, and yet violence was afflicted upon me," Hare said, addressing Harteau. "And my question is, were they operating the 4th Precinct under your jurisdiction? Do you control your out of control police officers… or are they just rogue, and are you okay with having a police department that is entirely out of your control?"

A number of black community leaders showed up for Harteau regardless.

Anthony Hines, president of the Minneapolis chapter of the National Black Police Officers Association, praised the chief for her support of black officers and her commitment to hearing and responding to the African American community.

EJ Smith with MAD DADS, an organization of black fathers who teach against drugs and gangs, said Harteau hires officers of color and helps MAD DADS teach young people to keep their records clean. 

Pastor Charles Graham of the Macedonia Baptist Church gave Harteau his support because, in his 46 years living in Minneapolis, he's seen some fresh change come with her top-down directives to officers to get out of their cars and be nice to people.

"I see her changing the culture of the police department from within… and making it a community relationship that we’re building here," Graham said. "I look forward to thanking Chief Harteau for the hard work that she’s doing. She’s got a real heart for the city and she’s trying to make this thing work."