O’Hara announces leadership, structure changes in MPD

MPD names new assistant chiefs

MPD names new assistant chiefs

Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara has announced changes in the structure and leadership of his department.

Effective immediately, O’Hara said he’s splitting the Minneapolis Police Department into two divisions — one focused on dealing with all police operations and crime and another to oversee everything with the city’s consent decrees and rebuild community trust.

He also announced new leadership appointments, picking Katie Blackwell to serve as the assistant chief overseeing the operations division and Christopher Gaiters to lead the community trust division. O’Hara also named the heads of the department’s patrol and investigations bureaus that will report to Blackwell and the internal affairs, constitutional policing, and professional standards bureaus that will report to Gaiters.

O’Hara says Monday’s announcement comes after months of work to reorganize the city’s police department. He added that it helps bring the department’s structure more in line with other major cities’ police departments.

Just last week, the Minneapolis City Council approved creating two new deputy chief positions within the department at O’Hara’s request. The council approved a second assistant chief for the department just this spring after O’Hara proposed adding it.

RELATED: Minneapolis City Council approves 2 more deputy chiefs for MPD

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According to city officials, the new structure and leadership team will provide greater support for officers and also have more accountability and transparency as the department works to rebuild trust with citizens.

“These are not missions in competition with one another. No police force can reduce crime and maintain those crime reductions if we are not doing so in a way that enables us to earn people’s trust,” O’Hara said Monday.

The announcement of the changes comes on the same day that Tou Thao — one of four former Minneapolis police officers to be charged and convicted in the murder of George Floyd — was sentenced to serve time in prison on one count of aiding and abetting manslaughter.

O’Hara referenced Floyd’s murder in his announcement, saying it’s time for the department to move forward.

“What has not adequately happened here . . . it’s been obvious to me that everyone in this city wants progress, everyone here has been through so much — our cops, our residents — everyone wants to move forward, but what we have not done is we have not begun to heal, and I think internally, today is the day where we are sending a very clear signal internally that we are going to move forward,” O’Hara said.

He added that for the community, that means the department needs to be more present in the community and hear residents out to improve engagement and rebuild trust.

“Over the next few weeks, you’ll be seeing a number of community engagement sessions that will be occurring around issues with the (Minnesota Department of Human Rights) settlement agreement and I think that’s something that residents will see, they’ll be able to come and have their voices heard and they will see that we are serious about ensuring that they are part of those conversations and we are serious about ensuring our residents have their fingerprints on our policies, on our training and our practices.”

The chief called it a “historic day” for MPD, noting they are the “most significant changes to the MPD’s organizational structure in the modern era.”

O’Hara said there will be additional appointments within the department coming, specifically to fill open commander positions, but those decisions will be made at a later time. He said his leadership team will also look at the new structure to determine if things can be divided up differently for better efficiency and if some positions don’t need to be filled.