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Minneapolis Police Chief Resigns After Shooting

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The police chief of Minneapolis has resigned as anger and criticism continues to build over the shooting of an unarmed Australian woman by a Minneapolis police officer. Minnesota Public Radio's Tim Nelson has more.

TIM NELSON, BYLINE: Mayor Betsy Hodges has been struggling to address the incident, the second controversial shooting by Minneapolis police in as many years. Justine Ruszczyk was trying to report a sexual assault, when one of the responding officers shot and killed her as she stood beside a police cruiser behind her home last Saturday night. Her death made headlines around the world.

The officer who shot her, Mohamed Noor, has refused to explain the incident to investigators. State authorities say neither his, nor his partner's body camera was activated before the shooting. And now, the mayor says, the chief needed to go. Hodges explained why at a Friday night press conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

BETSY HODGES: Some in Minneapolis have lost confidence in police leadership. For us to continue to transform policing and community trust in policing, both the chief and I concluded we need new leadership at MPD.

NELSON: Harteau has been with the force for more than 30 years. She was the first woman and first openly gay chief in department history when she was appointed in 2012 by Hodges' predecessor, R.T. Rybak. The chief didn't speak publicly about her departure but issued a statement saying she was stepping aside willingly and that she left the 840-officer department better than she found it.

But the chief's ouster wasn't enough for critics of the city's police, still upset by the shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark at the scene of an ambulance call in 2015. Officers in that case weren't charged or disciplined. John Thompson, friend of black motorist Philando Castile shot by suburban police last year, led a crowd of demonstrators shouting down the mayor as she spoke at City Hall last night.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN THOMPSON: We would like you to move out of our city. Y'all police department has terrorized us enough. Y'all press conference is ineffective. And you didn't want to hear us, so you hear me now. We do not want you as the mayor of Minneapolis, and we ask you to resign.

NELSON: Chants of bye, bye, Betsy, and a crowd of demonstrators eventually drove the mayor out of the room. Activist Mel Reeves took to the podium.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MEL REEVES: The former chief wasn't doing her job, but we understand it's beyond the chief, that the problem is institutional, right? If it was not institutional, then those cameras - those body cameras would have been on the police the other day.

NELSON: Hodges, a first-term Democrat, is facing a tough re-election battle in November and returned to the podium later to ask for patience.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HODGES: There are people who are going to be happy about this. There are people who are going to be unhappy. But I hope people appreciate that there is no magic wand for public safety - right? - not for this chief, the previous one or the next one.

NELSON: Hodges said she already knew who she wanted the next one to be - the department's second in command, Medaria Arradondo. For NPR News, I'm Tim Nelson in Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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