Police point to culture change

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaks about Justine Damond’s case at Pershing Park Feb. 26.
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo speaks about Justine Damond’s case at Pershing Park Feb. 26.

Insp. Kathy Waite remembers a “terrible sinking feeling” when she received the July 15 phone call that Justine Damond had been shot by an officer.

“Any time you have an officer-involved shooting, you know the ripple effect that that’s going to have,” she said. “…It’s a lot for an agency to overcome, quite frankly.”

“At the end I know there has to be a sense of justice,” said Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.

Waite and Arradondo spoke in the Fulton neighborhood Feb. 26 about how they’re working to rebuild trust, while neighbors demanded to know how the department has changed in the months since the shooting.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman continues to seek more information before deciding whether to charge Officer Mohamed Noor in the shooting. More than 30 officers have been summoned to testify before a grand jury, according to the police union president.

“I’m still just left wondering why and how could this have happened,” said Fulton resident Chris Gegax. “I’m really sad and angry still that nothing has really happened with this officer.”

Arradondo said he needs to let Noor’s judicial process play out before taking any employment action. To do so early would jeopardize the process, he said.

“But for the hours, days and weeks that it goes on, I know people are very frustrated, because they feel that there is no accountability. My accountability is allowing that criminal process to play itself out,” he said. “And then based on what happens there, then I will have the employment piece to that. … Whatever the decision is, it’s going to be tough.”

Police 5

Council Member Linea Palmisano and Arradondo talked about recent changes to the body camera policy, which remove “gray area” and clearly state officers should activate cameras whenever they respond to a call or initiate contact. The body cameras of both Noor and his partner were off during the shooting, and a September audit found that officers were activating cameras for only about two-thirds of all dispatches.

Arradondo said a recent policy change states that if an officer deactivates a camera, he or she must document the reason for turning it off. The policy will continue to evolve, he said.

Police 1Apart from body cameras, Arradondo said another shift in the department relates to officer wellness. In years past, he said officers were expected to shrug off trauma on the job — whether it be a homicide, baby not breathing or child witnessing domestic assault — with an attitude to “suck it up and get back out there on the next call.” Arradondo said that culture should change. Similar to debriefings that follow military service, the police department should debrief officers, he said.

One meeting attendee said she’s glad to hear police talk about officer wellness. She said some police shootings have left her wondering if officers were stressed or mentally ill, causing them to become trigger-happy.

Supervisors are checking in with officers more often, Waite said. And the 5th Precinct now offers weekly yoga and mindfulness sessions, giving officers a chance to reflect on job stress.

Arradondo said officers are responsible for their actions, however, and said officers must always follow policy despite threatening incidents like the 2016 ambush of police officers in Dallas, which riveted the department.

Arradondo said that when he took over as police chief, he knew that community trust would be a top priority.

“Quite frankly, there were some parts of our community where that trust never existed, and then some where it had certainly been shaken,” he said.

The morning after he was sworn in as police chief, Arradondo said every member of the department received a vision statement laying out his expectations.

“If you lie in your words, in reports, I have no need for you and I won’t tolerate it,” he said. “Acts of discrimination? Can’t have you here.”

Officers are also accountable for actions like social media posts while not in uniform, he said.

Under current practice, the chief’s disciplinary actions can be overturned through the police union arbitration process. Arradondo said he’s closely watching a Richfield Police Department case that’s testing the use of arbitration to reinstate an officer the chief tried to fire.

“I’m watching it with bated breath. Because if they rule in favor of the chief of police in Richfield, it helps,” he said. “We have employees who should not be wearing this uniform that are, because a third party weighed in.”

Rather than spar with the union president, however, Arradondo said he wants to focus on the 300 officers that elect him.

“The union president’s not going to be here 10, 15, 20 years from now. But they will be. I need to focus and persuade them on the importance of procedural justice, on the importance of accountability,” he said.

He said he wants to create a climate where even a rookie cop would feel comfortable intervening if a field training officer was acting inappropriately.

One meeting attendee asked the police chief if he’d be open to reviewing the use of force policy, perhaps limiting force when guns are not present.

In response, Arradondo said the current policy focuses on what a “reasonable” officer would have done with the information available at the time, which is based on Supreme Court precedent. A recent update to the policy states that officer actions should not cause unnecessary injury to themselves, their partner or the public.

Police 4Waite said that means the SWAT team is rarely kicking down doors.

“De-escalation is really key,” she said, “…being able to disengage as quickly as you engage.”

She said residents might see officers backing away while verbalizing commands, or talking to friends or neighbors before rushing in to a scene.

Palmisano, who hosted the Feb. 26 conversation, mentioned the 2013 officer shooting of Terrance Franklin. Police pursued Franklin into the basement of a house, and shot and killed him during a confrontation. Policing has evolved since that time, Palmisano said, noting the recent 36-hour standoff with a man at a university campus hotel.

Following the meeting, Ryan Masterson said Arradondo’s comments made sense, but they still leave him frustrated.

“I’m glad to hear his energy is being put toward the new generation,” he said.

Gegax said he appreciated hearing the officers open up and speak.

“I don’t think I will be satisfied until Officer Noor is accountable,” he said.

  • Case Hardened

    This was MURDER.

  • rb

    why is noor still here

  • Overpopulation

    Why are police unions protecting criminals and weasels? They should be held accountable too!

  • Overpopulation

    Because of police unions! Probably one of the reasons police brutality is so pervasive. Rotten cops are protected by the unions and can get away with almost anything. Sad.

  • Lawrence Rodriguez

    Police Unions are like any other union, all they want is your money.
    Why do you think their are so against “Right to work States”? Because it gives me the freedom to choose whether I want to be in the union or not.
    This guy, Noor, should not be a Police Officer. He probably should not even be in this country. How can any decent American be in favor of culture change? What is that? Changing American culture?

  • rb

    Qualified immunity has to end, police need to be held personally accountable just as any other politician , then we will see a end to all this abuse

  • Sopater

    So when she heard that an innocent woman had been shot dead by a police officer, Inspector Waite’s first concern was how that was going to affect the agency rather than the victim’s family.

    “Any time you have an officer-involved shooting, you know the ripple
    effect that that’s going to have,” she said. “…It’s a lot for an agency
    to overcome, quite frankly.”

    Maybe that is part of the problem right there. Since the shooting, it seems that there has been a great deal of effort put forth to try and restore trust without the community seeing much being done to seek justice.

    How is that working out for you?

  • Joe Price

    The Shooting was 8 months ago. This is no longer an investigation as to what happened but an exercise in how to side step any blame. This guy had his gun out, charged, finger on the trriger saftey off, pointed across his partner out the window and with one round shot and killed an unarmed woman in her PJ’s. The Administration still can’t decide if he did anything wrong?

  • Loomy

    Noor hasn’t even been required to testify or be questioned on his actions despite it being 8 months since he shot an innocent Woman!
    On what planet is that OK?

  • JDO1947

    When I retired I began traveling around the states. My mind had these 60ish ideas of how backward the South was and how the industrialized North was oh so much more advanced. Boy was I wrong! The South is impressive, most states, while I feel we, Minnesota, have slowly slipped down the ladder of respect. We’re like spoiled children living off the success of or forefathers/mothers. May the Creator help us!

  • JDO1947

    You’re very right, but, you get the government you derserve. So, let’s us all go engage ourselfs in sports and soap operas and the past, over which we have no control .

  • JDO1947

    Perhaps we should examine who hired/trained him. There is no accountability in government, the government does best what the government does least.

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