Minneapolis council approves changemaker as new police chief

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minneapolis City Council on Thursday unanimously approved a former public safety director from New Jersey to take over the city’s police department, as it struggles with depleted staffing and the uncertainty of an ongoing federal investigation following the killing of George Floyd.

Brian O’Hara, deputy mayor of Newark, will start serving as Minneapolis’ police chief Monday.

“Everyone is hungry for change in this city. I’m not here to maintain the status quo,” he told reporters after the council vote.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey nominated O’Hara to lead the police department in September and said Thursday that the city needs someone like O’Hara right now.

“This moment matters,” Frey said. “The act of stepping up for this job – at this time – is an act of courage.”

Minneapolis has been at the center of calls for changes in policing since the May 2020 killing of Floyd, whose death under an officer’s knee led to nationwide demands for racial justice and an end to police brutality. Calls to abolish the department or dismantle and replace it with a new department of public safety were rejected by voters in the city last year.

The city is also under a federal investigation into its policing practices, and it is expected that court-enforced changes will be ordered through a consent decree. The city is currently working with the state Department of Human Rights on a similar process, after an investigation by that agency found the department has engaged in a pattern of race discrimination for at least a decade.

O’Hara has overseen such change before, after the Department of Justice found that the Newark Police Department had engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing. From 2017 through 2020, O’Hara worked to ensure that a 2016 consent decree was implemented and that the Newark department complied with efforts to change the agency’s culture.

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