The Minneapolis Police Department has been under the microscope after two separate incidences of officer-involved altercations laced with racial slurs came to light. Now, the former police chief is speaking out.
The videos out of Green Bay, Wis., and Apple Valley, Minn., have rocked the department and city leaders. In both, off-duty officers can be seen and heard as they fight and use racial epithets in heated altercations.
"It makes the department look bad," said Tim Dolan, former police chief for the Minneapolis Police Department. "It makes the profession look bad.
Dolan found the behavior so troubling, he penned a letter to the editor of the Star Tribune over the weekend. In it, he wrote, "As I often told officers in the past, there will be days when you will be less proud of putting on the uniform of the Minneapolis Police Department."
"The recent incidents reported should embarrass and concern anyone who has worn a uniform," he continued.
Dolan led the department for six years. Last year, he retired and passed the baton to Janee Harteau.
"I used to say the job was easy except for personnel issues," Dolan recalled. "Personnel issues are the toughest to deal with, especially with race involved."
When asked whether there is a problem with racism within the department, Dolan replied: "Racism is everywhere."
"People say there isn't racism," he said. "They are not living in reality."
The cases have sparked outrage in every corner of the city, particularly in neighborhoods where the majority of residents are African American.
"As a member of the community -- the last couple years, I began trusting police here," Darrel Young told FOX 9 News. "To see that… it was a hard to swallow."
While Harteau cannot comment on specific individuals and punishments, she made it clear she was "appalled" by what she saw in the videos appearing on the local news. She has insisted that there is no place for racism or discrimination in the department and has vowed to reach out to cultural and faith leaders in the community, including Bishop Richard Howell, in an effort to rebuild trust.
"I think the time for conversation is now," Howell said. "Let's not let this thing get out of hand."
On Sunday, the Minneapolis Police Federation also signaled its interest in being a part of the solution, with the union president releasing a statement that echoed Harteau's sentiments after illustrated a desire to be included in discussions with community leaders.
"On behalf of our 850 members, we agree 100% with Chief Janee Harteau that each and every officer in MPD has taken an oath of office and is required to live by the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. We take that oath and the code very seriously," Lt. John Delmonico wrote. "The overwhelming majority of MPD officers work hard every day to earn the public's respect and trust. We must impartially enforce the law without discriminating against any citizen based on their race, sexual orientation, religion or national origin. There is no place in MPD for racist and bigoted officers."
Dolan said while it is tough to weed out the "bad apples," he believes union cooperation will be crucial going forward.
"The union can make some concessions which might help in terms of how far you can control off-duty behavior," Dolan said. "They do play an important role."
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