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Medaria Arradondo looks back on 2 years as MPD chief

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Chief Medaria Arradondo is sworn in at Sabathani Community Center.
Chief Medaria Arradondo is sworn in at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis, Minn., Friday afternoon, September 8, 2017.
Maria Alejandra Cardona | MPR News
MPD Chief Arradondo talks on officer mental health
by MPR

When Medaria Arradondo became chief of the Minneapolis police, the department was going through a turbulent time. Justine Ruszczyk had just been killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Mohamed Noor, and the debate on body camera use was in full swing. 

Having been a Minneapolis police officer for more than 30 years, Arradondo had built strong relationships in the department and out in the community. Many thought he could be the change they wanted to see, and Arradondo knew there was work to be done. 

"I knew we needed to do two things," Arradondo told Brandt Williams on MPR News. "One was we needed to truly transform the department and the culture of the MPD, and the other one was specifically rooted in trust. We're an organization that's 150 years old. We've done a lot of great things in that time but, self-admittedly, we've harmed communities in those 150 years."

For Arradondo, rebuilding those bridges, especially with communities of color, has been a priority. Growing up in Minneapolis, he said, he didn't see many police officers who looked like him, but those who were around helped inspire him to become a police officer. Now that he's the city's first black police chief, it's something he hasn't lost sight of. 

"I feel like I have an affinity not only to the MPD but certainly to the communities we serve. There were so many groundbreaking, legendary and honorable African-Americans that paved the way for me to be in this position and have the opportunities that we have," Arradondo said. "If me being the first [black] chief of the Minneapolis Police Department inspires or provides opportunity for others, then I'm very grateful for that, but I also know that at the end of the day I'm going to be judged on delivering public safety." 

Keeping officers healthy, physically and mentally is among  Arradondo's top goals.  

"There's the saying that hurt people hurt people," he said. "I need to make sure that officers are just and well in doing this job." 

"There are inherent dangers that come along with this work, and our officers have to be trained in certain areas and aspects of situational awareness and firearm proficiency," Arradondo said. "But the No. 1 trade or tool ... is being adequate and good listeners, resource providers and public-safety servants."

This interview is part of "Call to Mind," MPR's initiative to foster new conversations around mental health.