Life after chief: Janee Harteau on what's next

Former Minneapolis police chief Janee Harteau
Janee Harteau, in a photo taken when she was Minneapolis police chief, watches cadets at the department's academy.
Brandt Williams | MPR News 2015

Janeé Harteau is proud of the changes she accomplished in her time as Minneapolis police chief — things like instituting implicit bias training or rolling out body cameras to all officers. But she knows that the ending of the story is what people remember.

Harteau stepped down from her post in July. The mayor asked for her resignation after Justine Ruszczyk was fatally shot by a police officer in south Minneapolis.

Ruszczyk's death garnered international attention and sparked city-wide protests.

"I think it makes people take a step back and say we haven't done enough," Harteau said of the shooting. "I totally understand that. We were on our way, but we weren't there. It takes time."

Harteau joined MPR News host Tom Weber to talk about what's next for her after a tragic summer.

It won't be another position as chief.

"If I'm a police chief, I can impact a city. I can impact that police department," Harteau said. "But my goal is to have a larger impact on the profession."

She plans to become a consultant, to share her law enforcement experience with departments around the country. In particular, she wants to see more women in leadership positions. Harteau herself was the first woman to serve as police chief of Minneapolis. Just two weeks after she resigned, her peers named her the 2017 Woman Law Enforcement Executive of the Year.

With her experience comes hard truths.

"You will never have an organization that is flawless because we have employees who are human beings, who will make mistakes — even good faith mistakes, and unfortunately life-and-death mistakes that need to be addressed," Harteau said. "You need to put processes and policy and training in place to avoid that. But you can't avoid everything."

With tensions between law enforcement and the community running high as news of police shootings fill headlines nationwide, Harteau shared her advice for both sides:

"Police officers need to see themselves as community leaders. We're all community members, we happen to wear a uniform. And I want the public to begin to see police officers as human beings who wear uniforms.

"Those two things need to come together. Mistakes are going to occur. You name me an organization, there's always going to be people who don't do their job well, who should never been in that position that they're in. Policing is the same thing.

"As police chiefs ... we need to do better jobs in creating processes and working with unions to eliminate those who shouldn't be in the job."

For the full conversation with former Minneapolis police chief Janeé Harteau, use the audio player above.

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