Mayor Rybak’s remarks at swearing-in of Police Chief Janeé Harteau
December 4, 2012
In the past, we have come together for many reasons in this beautiful Rotunda. We have come here to celebrate the inauguration of mayors and City Council members, to swear in other City officials, to hold events of every kind. But out of all those events in the years that I’ve been here, there’s one moment that I will never forget.
It was a moment 10 years ago, in the middle of the night. We had just come from the hospital. Melissa Schmidt, a remarkable Minneapolis police officer, had just died. Chief Olson and I walked down those stairs to announce this horrible tragedy in our city.
The lights were very low and it was very dark outside. And as we came down those stairs, an impromptu memorial was being set up right here. Police officers from all over the city had come, some in their uniforms, some in plain clothes. And we saw in their eyes something that night that was obvious: they had lost a friend, they had lost a colleague and they had an enormous sadness in their face.
But I’ll also never forget that at that moment, there was something that we rarely see in the eyes of these people, who are so brave and who protect us every day. It was fear. Fear isn’t something that you usually see there, but that night, as they mourned together the loss of somebody who meant so much to them, they looked deep in their hearts and recognized their own vulnerability. Those people, who stand calmly and bravely between us and danger every day, recognized how dangerous their job really is. What they really mean to each other and all of us, and how much can be lost.
We stand here today to elevate a new person to the position of leadership at a time when we also mourn the loss of one more police officer. As we begin this very wonderful celebration, let us also take a moment of silence to remember the loss of Officer Tom Decker in Cold Spring, and his family.
Let us also show our appreciation of those who serve us every day, and the families who stand behind them. Thank you for your bravery and your service.
In the time I’ve been Mayor, I’ve nominated two police chiefs. One was Chief McManus, who came from outside with a fresh perspective and opened doors that we benefited from for many years, and for many to come.
The other was Chief Dolan, who led a remarkable moment in this city. He is a man who grew up in this city and this department who used his knowledge of both to lead us to historic lows in crime and make Minneapolis dramatically safer.
In both cases, officers from different perspectives brought their brand of leadership. In both cases, they brought a level of success.
However, too often we frame the choice of who is going to lead our police department along those lines. Is it someone from the inside? Is it someone from the outside? We’ve seen success from both, yet I believe it’s a false choice, because a police chief needs to be both.
The job needs someone to command a rank from the top and lead officers. That’s an inside job. The job also requires someone who can go inside the community, who can understand pain and suffering and celebration in the community with the experience and the perspective of those from the outside.
A police chief needs to be tough and a police chief needs to be that caring human being who can remember everyone in the community and see their perspective.
In Chief Harteau, we have chosen someone who understands both those perspectives very well. She has come up through our department: she started as a beat cop and at every step of the way through our department, including challenges she faced in our department, she has succeeded and has risen to the top. But we also know her as a person whose character and experience will always allow her to see the perspective of those who don’t feel included, who feel left out, who need reform and change. She will be tough and she will be compassionate. That’s the person that I’ve come to know and believe we can count on every day.
A couple weeks ago, I was at the E.J. Henderson turkey giveaway at the West Broadway Cub Foods store in North Minneapolis, when a young mom and her little girl walked up to me. I asked the girl, “What’s your name?” and she answered, “My name is Janee.” I was delighted and said, “Do you know that you have the same name as the new chief of police?” This little girl’s eyes just lit up and she said, “She’s a lady!”
It is so powerful to think that this little girl, who is growing up in a neighborhood that has faced some challenges with crime, can look to the very top of this department and see someone that she can relate to.
That is a powerful thing.
But it is also powerful to know that today, we have chosen a person to lead our department who at every step of the way — walking through this department on the streets and in the corridors of power — has shown that our top cop is a real top cop.
Janeé, to you and your whole family, we reach out and say thank you for your service. It’s a tough job and we don’t expect you to do it all, but we do expect that you will do what you have done every time: rise to the top. Congratulations.
Last updated Dec. 5, 2012