Embattled Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges is turning to a veteran city cop to try to right the ship for the city’s police department in the aftermath of this month’s fatal shooting by an officer of an unarmed Australian woman.
Even before the shooting of Justine Damond, the issue of the Minneapolis Police Department’s use of deadly force had been a drag on Hodges — who faced fierce criticism in the aftermath of the controversial 2015 police shooting of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police that led to an 18-day occupation by protesters outside a north side police station.
Now, Hodges — who faces a crowded field of contenders in her November re-election bid — has picked Assistant Chief Medaria Arradondo, a 28-year veteran of the force from a fifth generation African-American Minnesota family, to help lead the police force and make the case that she’s committed to reforming the department.
“It’s got good optics, but we’re still a long way from the election,” Larry Jacobs, a political analyst at the University of Minnesota, said of the Arradondo pick. “It’s not entirely clear that this is going to be credited to Betsy Hodges and lead to the lessening of the intense animosity Betsy has been receiving from some progressives and voters in communities of color.”
Damond, who was fatally shot by Officer Mohamed Noor, was white. But the circumstances of the July 15 shooting have triggered anger in the city’s black community, including some residents who say the incident reflects their long-held position that the department needs a dynamic overhaul. Both Noor and his partner, Matthew Harrity, were wearing body cameras at the time of the shooting, but neither turned them on during the incident.
The 40-year-old meditation instructor had called 911 after hearing what she thought might have been a sexual assault in the alley outside her apartment. She was fatally shot by Noor as she apparently approached the squad car. An attorney for Harrity said that it was “reasonable” that the officers may have feared they were targeted for an ambush.