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Ex-Mayor Rybak agrees that police chief had to go

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Former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak
Although former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak praised Janee Harteau's performance as police chief, he faulted her for a slow response to the Justine Ruszczyk shooting.
Tim Post | MPR News 2015

The former mayor who appointed Janeé Harteau as chief of Minneapolis police says he agrees that, after the fatal police shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, Harteau had to go.

R.T. Rybak, who was mayor from 2002 to 2014, praised Harteau as a community-based and reform-minded chief. But he said recent communication breakdowns with Mayor Betsy Hodges, and a slow response to the Ruszczyk shooting, reflected a need for change at the top position within the department.

"When the relationship between her and the mayor broke down to that degree, and when she didn't return at a time when I think people need to be on the spot, it came to the point where it had to end," Rybak said. Harteau was out of town when the shooting happened. She did not speak publicly about it until several days later, when she said "Justine didn't have to die."

Chief Harteau answers media questions.
Harteau, center, stood with police inspector Michael Kjos, left, and Arradondo, right, at a press conference last week.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News

Rybak also voiced support for the selection of Medaria Arradondo as interim chief. He's worked with Arradondo, and said he has a unique ability to establish healing in the community when it comes to police relations.

"He has a real passion for changing the bad parts of the [police] culture," Rybak said.

Arradondo's appointment still needs to be considered by the City Council. If approved, he would fill out the remainder of Harteau's term.

While Harteau's service in the chief's office was on the short side by Minneapolis standards, her five-year tenure was as much as twice the national average.

In 1997, the International Association of Chiefs of Police estimated that the average tenure for major market police chiefs was 2.5 years. More recently, the non-profit Police Executive Research Forum offered a similar estimate, saying big city police chiefs last only between 2.5 and 3.5 years on the job.

Among Minneapolis chiefs since 1980, only one — William McManus, who led the department from 2004 to 2006 — served a shorter tenure than Harteau.

John Laux, who assumed the job in 1989, lasted about as long as Harteau. Timothy Dolan served a bit longer, from 2006 to 2012. But the colorful Tony Bouza held the job from 1980 to 1989, and Robert Olson served from 1994 to 2004.