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Colleagues, community praise Minneapolis police chief nominee Janee Harteau

Janee Harteau
Janee Harteau

The parade lasted an hour.

Acting Police Chief Janee Harteau sat in the back row of the City Council Chambers Wednesday as colleagues, community leaders, folks from the neighborhoods, people of faith and her own American Indian community came forward to praise her and urge council members to make her the next chief of police.

“I didn’t get here alone,” said Harteau as she faced the television cameras afterward and admitted that hearing all of that praise was “a little awkward.”

“Success doesn’t happen on its own, it happens with a lot of people,” she said. “There are a lot of high hopes for me, and I do hope I can live up to those expectations.”

Rosemary Knutson, from the Cedar-Riverside area, was trying to organize a safety committee in her neighborhood when she met Harteau. The two worked on the project together and were successful.

“This woman is smart, and she’s hard-working and she has a big heart,” Knutson told council members, adding, “I probably wouldn’t mess with her because she’s a really tough cookie.”

Sharon Lubinski, now Minnesota’s U.S. marshal, told about how she and Harteau attended the Police Academy together in 1987.

“She has a heart full of compassion and a moral compass,” said Lubinski, who Harteau lists as one of her role models. “She is a person who never stops learning, never stops improving herself.”

At the news conference, Harteau was asked what she had learned during the public hearing. She didn’t miss a beat:

“The human aspect of what we do as police officers is clearly the most critical. It’s about building relationships and building partnerships.

“It’s not just about being tough but being strong and having the ability to make those tough decisions, but also to stand up and say when we need help.”

Arnetta Phillips of Shiloh Temple in North Minneapolis recalled a meeting with Harteau and church members that ended with an unusual request.

“At the end of our meeting, she said … ‘I need your help.  I need your prayers,’ ” Phillips told council members, adding, “That’s a big statement. That’s a big heart.”

“As a police department, we need the community’s help. We need them probably more than they need us,” said Harteau. “That’s sometimes not so easy for police officers to say they need something because we tend to build officers up to be superheroes, but we’re not. We need everybody. We need as many partners as we can get.”

“Are we lucky or what?” asked Council Member Diane Hofstede after the public comments ended. “It leaves us breathless to think about the great opportunity we have.”

“I want to remark on the courage it took for women to choose this profession,” said Council President Barb Johnson, herself a registered nurse who recalled the days when the first men were entering that profession. “I look back and I really respect the pioneers in our police department,” she said.

“There are some firsts,” acknowledged Harteau at the news conference, “but I really don’t want to have this conversation anymore.

“My role as police chief will be what people talk about, and people will remember me as a good chief, not the first of anything,” she said. “But if it helps to break barriers, and if it helps to break peoples’ mindsets on one’s ability to do the job, then I’m very happy to be that person.”

With unanimous Public Safety Committee support of her nomination, the City Council is scheduled to vote on her nomination at 9:30 a.m. Friday. The appointment would cover two terms:  the final month of departing Chief Tim Dolan’s tenure and a three-year term beginning Jan. 2.

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