MINNEAPOLIS — Just weeks before the end of his term, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced that he plans to leave his position in mid-January.
"After much personal reflection and thoughtful discussions with my family and Mayor Frey, I have made the decision that I will not be accepting a new term as chief of the Minneapolis Police Department," Arradondo said at a press conference Monday morning.
"After 32 years of service I believe that now is the right time to allow for new leadership, new perspective, new focus and new hope to lead the department forward in collaboration with our communities," he said.
Those who know the chief best, like longtime community activist Tyrone Terrill, point to how trustworthy and honest he is.
"He stood up under some very difficult circumstances," said Terrill. "We're going to need another chief like that."
Terrill also said Chief Arradondo, like outgoing St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell, is also highly accessible in every neighborhood.
"Whether they were in the Indigenous community, Latino community, Asian community, African American community, LGBTQ community, you name it, they were comfortable," said Terrill. "Our next chief on both sides of the river have to have that quality."
The announcement comes just over a month after election day when voters opposed replacing the MPD with a new public safety department - an outcome the chief supported.
But a former cop, who taught would-be officers, says with a new chief, should come a new way of policing that includes transparency and transformation.
"The vision has to be there for safety," says Mylan Masson, the former Director of the Law Enforcement Program at Hennepin Technical College. "What that will be and what the new chief will want to be apart of this policing, this new perspective of policing, we don't quite know what it is yet."
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey thanked Arradondo for his years of service to the department, saying he is "chock full of integrity" and "truly a son of Minneapolis."
Frey said he hopes to announce an interim chief this week, and confirmed that the search for Arradondo's replacement will include a nationwide search. Chief Arradondo said he is working with people within the department that could take over his post, but did not share any names.
Arradondo will stay on through mid-January, at which point the interim chief will take charge.
Arradondo said he does not have another police chief job lined up in another department, and plans to stay in Minneapolis after his retirement.
"I've been blessed beyond measure to have served the people of this truly wonderful city," Arradondo said during his announcement.
In a KARE 11/MPR News/Star Tribune/FRONTLINE Minnesota Poll conducted in September, Minneapolis voters had a generally positive view of Chief Arradondo. In that poll, 55% of voters said they had a favorable opinion of the chief, while 22% had an unfavorable opinion. Another 23% had no opinion.
Despite that positive feedback, the Minneapolis Police Department has for years been the target of local and nationwide scrutiny following the deaths of Justine Ruszczyk and George Floyd at the hands of two different former officers.
Arradondo was appointed to his post in 2017 after then-chief Janeé Harteau resigned. Mayor Betsy Hodges had called for Harteau to step down from her position in the wake of Ruszczyk 's shooting death at the hands of Minneapolis officer Mohamed Noor.
Then in May 2020, video of Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin using his knee to pin George Floyd to the ground, which ultimately caused his death, went viral and sparked nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
Arradondo said Monday that Floyd's death and the aftermath did not have an impact on his decision to retire.
In the year and a half following Floyd's death, a campaign to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety gained enough steam to land on the ballot in the November elections.
According to the same KARE 11/MPR News/Star Tribune/FRONTLINE Minnesota Poll, 49% of voters supported replacing the MPD, 41% were against it and 10% were undecided at that time.
Ahead of Election Day on Nov. 2, 2021, Chief Arradondo publicly expressed his opposition to the ballot measure.
"We are down a third of our sworn officers," Arradondo said at a press conference at the time. "To vote on a measure of reimagining public safety without a solid plan and an implementation or direction of work, this is too critical of a time to wish and hope for that help that we need so desperately right now."
Arradondo came under fire for his comments by Yes 4 Minneapolis, the group that petitioned to get the proposed measure on the ballot, which criticized him for campaigning in uniform. An ethics complaint was eventually filed against the chief and Mayor Jacob Frey by City Council President Lisa Bender, saying that making a statement while wearing a city uniform and standing in front of a backdrop with a city logo was against the Minneapolis code of ordinances.
Minneapolis voters ended up rejecting Ballot Question 2, which would have removed MPD from the city charter and put a new public safety department under control of the city council. Fifty-six percent of voters said "no" to replacing MPD, 44% voted "yes."
Now community leaders who worked with Arradondo on gun violence prevention projects like 21 Days of Peace are responding to the news of his retirement.
"My heart sank and I was disappointed," said Bishop Richard D. Howell Jr. of Shiloh Temple International Ministries Church. "I was very disappointed, which also shows the respect that I have for our chief because his job that he encountered over the last several years, few years to be exact, has been a tremendous pressure for him but he really handled that very well professionally and very, very kind to the community."
On Dec. 2, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced the creation of a community-led workforce, co-chaired by community activists focused on public safety and accountability recommendations. Arradondo and the Office of Violence Prevention will also provide direct support to the group.