Acting-Police Chief Janee Harteau appears to be on a smooth path toward confirmation for the job.
A City Council committee Wednesday afternoon unanimously approved her nomination to become Minneapolis' next top cop. Harteau also received unanimous support from people at today's public hearing.
In past public hearings, Minneapolis police chief-nominees have usually drawn a few critics. But none of the nearly two-dozen people who spoke at Harteau's hearing told council members to reject her nomination.
Comments like Rosemary Knutson's were typical: "This woman is smart and she's hard-working and she's got a big heart. And she shows up and she gives a 110 percent."
Knutson lives in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood and helped form a community safety organization years ago, when Harteau was assigned to the area. Knutson said she asked Harteau for help with the group and that Harteau was quick to help.
"The other thing I try to remember too is — as wonderful as she is — I probably wouldn't mess with her, 'cause I think she's a really tough cookie," Knutson said.
Harteau, a 25-year veteran of the force, is set to become the city's first female and first openly-gay police chief. However, she is not the first out lesbian to reach the upper ranks of the department. Former Assistant Chief Sharon Lubinski, now a U.S. Marshal, already blazed that trail. Lubinski, who joined the force with Harteau in 1987, said after the novelty of Harteau's historic appointment wears off, the public will see what is most important about her.
"I think they are going to accept her as a leader and I don't think some of those other matters will be important to them, but her as a strong leader," Lubinski said. "That's what the community really needs and that's what they're going to see in Janee."
Many of those who spoke at the hearing were leaders from various ethnic groups and neighborhood organizations. They told stories about how Harteau either reached out to them or was available to listen to their concerns. At the end of the hearing, Harteau seemed a bit worn out from all the praise.
"For me it was a little awkward, frankly, to hear a lot of the comments, but also very comforting," Harteau said. "I take comfort in the fact that those partnerships will continue in my role as chief. And I only see them growing."
Several challenges face the department in the coming years, including the declining number of officers. Harteau said due to a high attrition rate, the force must replenish its ranks soon. She said she would like to see more young women join the department, however, not as many women are signing up for recruit classes.
"I don't know why women are not going into law enforcement," Harteau said. "I hope that maybe if women can see people such as myself in the position I'm in that there are leadership roles in law enforcement for women."
The City Council is expected to approve Harteau's nomination on Friday. Harteau's swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for next week.