The Minneapolis City Council this week voted to eliminate the position of police spokesperson and make the city’s communications office responsible for the duties of the office, a move that prompted criticism from Police Chief Medaria Arradondo.
“I made my position on this matter clear. Today, the City Council opted to go in a different direction,” Arradondo said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times by John Elder, public information officer (PIO) for the Minneapolis Police Department.
The position will remain under the control of the department until Sept. 30, when the city will take over the duties.
The PIO gave police “the opportunity to get to know community members and the media in great depth” and “afforded the department an avenue for building stronger relationships and better serving the stakeholders throughout Minneapolis,” Arradondo said.
Voting 9-3, most council members supported the move, with several alluding to an initial press release from the police department regarding the death of George Floyd.
That release said officers “were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress” before calling an ambulance.
Floyd was held on the ground while one officer knelt on his neck for over seven minutes. The official autopsy showed Floyd, who had drugs in his system, suffered a sudden loss of blood resulting in heart failure while on the ground. An independent autopsy concluded he died from being deprived of oxygen.
Since Floyd’s death, the City Council has moved to abolish the police department, and the latest action is a way to undercut its power and influence.
Democrat Councilwoman Lisa Goodman, one of the “no votes,” cited a letter from the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists that argued against eliminating the police spokesperson position.
“Our primary concern is that the city’s communications department is not suited to this role. An effective PIO must have the trust both of police officers and journalists, and that takes time–24 hours a day, seven days a week. Will a communications liaison be on the scene of late-night shootings? Will he or she give press conferences and return phone calls on weekends and city holidays?” the board of the chapter wrote to the City Council before the vote.
Councilman Steve Fletcher, a Democrat, said he spoke to Emma Nelson, the president of the chapter, about the concerns.
“I am still convinced that this is a move that can move us forward, rather than backward,” he said.
Fletcher stressed the need to report crime “honestly and accurately” and “free of political bias,” adding: “That means political bias from leadership in both City Hall and MPD.”
The city communications staffers are not “subject to politicization,” he claimed.
Council President Lisa Bender, a Democrat, declined to delay the vote, saying “we have to make a decision.”
Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey joined the police chief in criticizing the move.
“Mayor Frey shares the concerns of Minnesota journalists and government transparency advocates about this decision. Major city departments across the nation employ a public information officer so that they can provide timely information to the public who need it,” his office said in a statement.
The council’s vote was made in defiance of best practices, it said.