ONE-ON-ONE: Chief Janee Harteau speaks out - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

ONE-ON-ONE: Chief Janee Harteau speaks out

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MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) -

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau sat down for a one-on-one interview with FOX 9 News after two officer-involved altercations involving racial slurs cast a shadow over her department.

In the last week, two videos surfaced showing five off-duty officers using racial slurs during altercations. One incident occurred earlier this summer in Green Bay, Wis., and the other took place last fall in Apple Valley, Minn.

While Harteau cannot comment on the exact details of the investigations currently under way, she has made it quite clear that she is disgusted by the conduct seen in the video footage that has circulated through local news.

In the first video, two members of the Minneapolis SWAT team got into a brawl with two African American men in Green Bay on June 29. During the altercation, they used racial slurs and even made disparaging remarks about Harteau as well. Both officers were placed on leave.

Three other Minneapolis police officers, all of whom remain on duty, also got into a skirmish with some African American patrons at an Apple Valley bar and restaurant and allegedly used racial epithets too.

FOX 9 asked Harteau whether using that kind of language off the clock could be grounds for firing.

"I think you can," she said. "It's code of conduct. It goes against our law enforcement code of ethics. It's about civil liberties and about people's rights and providing public safety and protection for all people equally. That [language in the video] didn't sound real equal."

Harteau told FOX 9 News she believes the incidents reflect individual problems with individual officers, not a systemic, widespread problem at this point.

"If I thought this was widespread, I'd walk away," she admitted. "I wouldn't be a part of it."

Yet, she also believes this could be a turning point of for the department.

"The momentum is there to make really good change. I think people are angry, like myself, and we're frustrated," Harteau said. "We're tired of the great work done by cops every day in this department being overshadowed by a couple individuals."

Harteau plans to look into recruitment, training and even psychological testing for department recruits. On Wednesday, she also plans to meet with her advisory council, comprised of about 20 community members who are racially and ethnically diverse, to get their input.

The Police Conduct Oversight Commission is also getting ready to meet for the first time, and Harteau plans to take recommendations from them as well.

Harteau plans to have an action plan created within the next couple of weeks.

One of the common denominators among the "bad apple" officers appears to be the SWAT team. The cops seen in the Green Bay video are members, and so was David Clifford, who is now serving time after a sucker punch during a bar fight nearly killed a man. Timothy Carson, who is now serving time for bank robbery, was also a SWAT member.

While Harteau is proud of the SWAT team over all, she said the stress and seeing the very worst in a community could be taking a toll.

"I think we need to look at how officers are dealing with high-profile violent incidents ... Us vs. them, it's a protective mechanism," she said.

As a head of the department and as an officer who once sued the department over sex discrimination, Harteau may know better than most where the dirty laundry is kept; however, she made it clear that it is time for some house cleaning.

"The silent majority can't be silent any longer," she said. "If you are, you're part of the problem."

Although the department has come a long way in recent years, its composition still does not reflect the community it serves. Of 836 sworn officers, 84 percent are men and 78 percent of them are white. They serve a community in which 30 percent of the members are of a minority group.

The Police Conduct Oversight Commission is also getting ready to meet for the first time, and Harteau plans to take recommendations from them as well.

Harteau plans to take some initial steps to reform the department in a few weeks.

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