New chief, barely in job, feels the heat from Amir Locke shooting

Minneapolis Police Chief Amelia Huffman was answering questions regarding the death of Amir Locke. A reporter challenged the police claim that Locke's gun pointed at officers who were serving a search warrant.

New chief, barely in job, feels the heat from Amir Locke shooting

Huffman tried to explain but it was too complicated for one local activist.

" This would be what I would call a anatomy of a coverup," Nekima Armstrong stated, as she walked forward to confront Huffman at the news conference. "Amelia, it seems like you want to be the chief. Act like it. ... Don't hide what the cops did."

This exchange highlights the difficult situation Huffman -- who was appointed interim chief just weeks before and is a candidate for the permanent job -- faces in trying to steer a department that has been in disarray since George Floyd killed20months ago . It's a department that has lost its community trust.

Huffman joined the department in 1994 and built a diverse resume before Frey selected her to replace the Medaria Arradondo. Huffman was a department spokesperson and commanded units such as Homicide.

Huffman was not interviewed by a police spokesperson. Huffman, a Springfield, Ohio resident, spoke out in a 2019 interview to a Minneapolis weekly. He said that he studied constitutional law at Smith College and then joined the police department.

Huffman said that Minneapolis was seeking people with backgrounds in other areas than law enforcement. "I wanted to make a difference, not just push meaningless papers from one place into the next."

John Swenson was the director of public security in Lino lakes, Minnesota. He worked for Huffman's Minneapolis Internal Affairs division for approximately a year during the 2000s. They were both sergeants and handled investigations for the department as well as agencies that required an outside perspective.

He recalls working with her in an investigation into a case of sexual assault against rural Minnesota police officers. He praised Huffman for his compassion in interviewing the victim and the suspect, as well as her attention towards detail.

Swenson stated, "She is an incredibly intelligent individual who cares tremendously about her work product. She also wants to see our profession continue moving forward."

Huffman was elected homicide chief in 2007. Huffman is white and clashed with a prominent Black investigator over her suggestion that a murder victim might have been connected to a drug sale. This upset the victim's family as well as the investigator.

Huffman was supported by Tim Dolan, the then-Chief of the Army. Dolan transferred him to another department. Dolan stated in an interview that Huffman was undermined by the investigating sergeant. He had been warned previously.

Dolan stated, "But you must decide whether or not you support the commander." (Huffman). "She is bright, fair, and capable. She deserves my support."

Black Arradondo had previously worked with Frey to make a number of policy changes that would have a significant impact on the culture and policies of the department following Floyd's passing. In November, he publicly opposed a referendum to replace the department by a new unit of public safety. This was defeated. He announced his retirement shortly after.

Huffman's interim appointment received a muted response. Levy Armstrong and other activists claimed they didn't know Locke well. The department that executed a no-knock warrant has been the focus of much of the anger following Locke’s death. Locke's parents claim that body-camera footage suggests Locke was awakened and then "executed" -- and for its initial account, which included a news release calling Locke a "suspect" despite not being named in the warrants.

These actions were taken by activists to protect their rights.

Levy Armstrong stated this week that she assumed the role "knowing that we are still dealing with the effects of George Floyd's murder... and knowing the expectations of accountability and transparency." That is the standard to which you must live up to. She didn't rise to the occasion, I think.

Michelle Gross, president, Communities United Against Police Brutality said that she first questioned whether Huffman was capable of transforming the department. She considers Locke's death confirmation of this fear and the handling by the interim chief.

Gross stated, "Own the error, apologize and tell us that it won't happen again." Gross said, "She did nothing like that."

Huffman was appointed inspector of the Fifth Precinct in southwest Minneapolis. The city was still reeling after the 2017 fatal shooting by a police officer of Justine Ruszczyk. Huffman stated that she and the officers in the area would be out in the community creating low-pressure opportunities for people to get to know each other in the 2019 interview.

Huffman stated that "Healing this chasm will take time and effort." "We must engage with people during their normal life."

She was also focused on bread and butter policing. Residents were unlikely to see significant changes in priorities. She specifically mentioned a focus on property and drug crimes, including theft and burglary.

The city's police force was again under scrutiny after Floyd's death. While large demonstrations in Minneapolis were peaceful, some people vandalized and looted businessesin Uptown, which was under the control of Huffman.

Jill Osiecki is the executive director of Uptown Association. She said that those attacks were "catastrophic for some businesses" and thanked Huffman for making individual visits to each affected location and not rushing those conversations.

Osiecki stated that it was impressive to see someone rise to the occasion in such difficult times. "It's difficult to be a Minneapolis police officer for many reasons. She is truly a compassionate person.

Huffman joined Arradondo's leadership in February 2021, as a deputy chief responsible for professional standards and training. Huffman was appointed interim chief in December. She took office on January 15.

Frey gave Frey credit for leading the department's adoption and reform of field training officers. This emphasizes the responsibility of officers to intervene when someone is in danger.

Frey stated that Huffman was the interim chief because she had an "encyclopedic" knowledge of policy, procedure and training.

Frey was asked about the calls of activists to fire Huffman. Frey stood by Frey this week, but she didn't make any promises for the future.

He stated that he didn't appoint interim Chief Huffman as interim chief to be used only in good times. However, he said that the city is moving forward with a nationwide search to ensure the department has the best possible police officer.


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