EXPLAINER: Minneapolis chief has sought to reform department

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File-This Feb. 17, 2021, file photo shows Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo addressing the media on preparations for the upcoming Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis. The trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in George Floyd's death is expected to turn toward the officer's training on Monday after a first week that was dominated by emotional testimony from eyewitnesses and a devastating video of Floyd's arrest. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via AP, Pool, File)

MINNEAPOLIS – Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo was a star witness for the prosecution Monday at the trial of a former officer charged with killing George Floyd, repeating the criticism he levied after Floyd's death.

Arradondo, the city’s first Black chief, fired Derek Chauvin and three other officers the day after Floyd died, and soon afterward labelled it “murder.” He testified Monday that Chauvin's actions were counter to his training and to department values.

It's a familiar message. Arradondo has spent the months since Floyd's death trying to transform a police department derided by critics as brutal and resistant to change, while fighting to preserve it from a liberal City Council that wants to replace it with a public safety unit or cut the number of officers.


Arradondo, a fifth-generation Minnesotan, joined the Minneapolis Police Department as a patrol officer, eventually working his way up to precinct inspector and head of the Internal Affairs Unit, which investigates officer misconduct allegations. Along the way, he and four other Black officers successfully sued the department for discrimination in promotions, pay and discipline. His predecessor, Janee Harteau, promoted him to assistant chief in early 2017.

He took over months later, after Harteau was forced out over the fatal shooting of Australia native Justine Ruszczyk Damond, who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault behind her house. The Black officer in that case was convicted of third-degree murder and is serving a 12 1/2-year term. Damond’s death came two years after 24-year-old Jamar Clark, who was Black, was killed in a scuffle with two white police officers, setting off weeks of protests; neither officer was charged.


When Arradondo was tapped to lead the Minneapolis Police Department in 2017, he faced a public newly outraged by Damond's death and still carrying deep mistrust over the killing of Clark.