Following yet another unarmed police shooting on her watch, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau has resigned under intense pressure from both the mayor and the public. Harteau departs as the first woman and first openly gay police chief in the city’s history.
In an incident that has received universal condemnation, on 15 July Police Officer Mohamed Noor shot Australian-native Justine Damond through an open car window when the yoga instructor allegedly approached the squad car and startled the officer. Just minutes before, a concerned Damond had called 911 twice to report a possible rape near the home she shared with her fiancée. She was wearing pajamas at the time of the shooting.
The shooting has been ruled a homicide, but charges have yet to be filed.
Both the ousted Chief and Mayor Betsy Hodges have disavowed the officer’s conduct. In a blog post, Hodges wrote that “the fatal shooting of Justine Damond should not have happened.”
— Minneapolis Police (@MinneapolisPD) July 21, 2017
In her resignation statement, Harteau described the shooting as a “tragedy,” and said it does “not reflect the training and procedure we’ve developed as a department.”
Nonetheless, she continued, “I’ve decided I am willing to step aside to let a fresh set of leadership eyes see what more can be done for the M.P.D. to be the very best it can be.”
“The city of Minneapolis deserves the very best,” she said.
Chief Harteau served as the first woman and openly gay police chief in Minneapolis’s history. During her 4-and-a-half year tenure, she encountered friction with Mayor Hodges in other instances as well. In 2013, she opposed a body camera proposal supported by Hodges.
In a press conference where she announced Harteau’s resignation, Hodges declared that “Some in Minneapolis have lost confidence in police leadership.”
“For us to continue to transform policing and community trust in policing,” she continued, “both the chief and I concluded we need new leadership at MPD.”
This is the second controversial police shooting during as many years under Harteau’s leadership.
In another shooting a year ago, police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop after Castile calmly informed Yanez that he had a gun. Castile was licensed to carry a gun and repeatedly reassured the officer that he was only reaching for his identification. Still, within seconds, Yanez released a volley of seven bullets into the car.
The aftermath of the event was livestreamed on Facebook by Castile’s girlfriend, leading to national outrage. In the first trial of its kind in the city, Officer Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter.
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