Comments a veteran Minneapolis Police Department officer made about the department's hiring practices apparently led to his demotion.
Art Knight, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo's now-former chief of staff, told KMOJ he was demoted to lieutenant with no assignment after he was quoted using the term "white boys" in a Star Tribune story that was published on Oct. 18.
Knight told the paper that the department needs to take another look at the way it recruits, trains and promotes racial minorities and women because if you keep using the same tactics, “you’re just going to get the same old white boys.”
Knight is still listed as the department's deputy chief/chief of staff on the city's website. However, the city confirmed to Bring Me The News on Oct. 20 that his job title is "police lieutenant," adding that the city is "unable to provide" additional information on why he was demoted.
Knight says he was demoted because his comments caused backlash within the department, with some officers saying the term was unnecessarily divisive.
He told KMJO he meant no ill will by his statement, adding that people should be more offended by the lack of diversity in the MPD than his word choice.
“It’s a shame that one sentence could hijack the narrative," Knight told KMJO.
He told the Star Tribune this week that he plans to take some personal time away from the MPD while he figures out his future.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, which is the union that represents many MPD officers, sent a letter to union members following Knight's comment, according to a copy of the letter shared to Facebook by a former officer Lisa Clemons.
"These racially charged comments do nothing but further erode the integrity of this administration and their ability to be racially responsible when it comes to decisions for the department," the letter says. "Furthermore, it negatively impacts our officers’ abilities to police in diverse communities because it hints that these 'old white boys' are policing in an unprofessional racist manner."
The federation has called for an investigation into Knight's comments but says it doesn't have faith it will be handled the same way as previous incidents of "perceived" racism or "racially insensitive" actions, the letter notes. The union also encourages anyone who has been "impacted, offended or harmed" by the comments to file a complaint.
The Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP commented on the situation, saying it stands with Knight and all Black professionals who speak the truth, even if it's inappropriate or not politically correct.
"Something must be done in the Minneapolis Police Department in terms of hiring so that they no longer hire ‘the same ol’ white boys,’" the NAACP said in a post on Facebook Thursday.
The NAACP said it does "stand in solidarity" with Chief Arradondo, calling him the best chief of police in the nation, but this idea of "reverse racism is dangerous" and while Knight could have used different language, "he should have not been demoted."
The organization adds:
"This situation is very different from the racist Christmas tree situation. This is different from the situations that are rooted in white supremacy that has truly harmed communities. We stand by Knight’s statements that if the department does not do anything differently, they will continue to attract the same young Caucasian men."
The Minneapolis Police Department in February hired one of its most diverse class of officers, WCCO reported. However, critics still say the department is behind other similarly-sized cities, with less than one-fourth of the department being ethnic minorities, the Star Tribune says.
Having a more diverse police force that is representative of the community it serves is seen as one of the pieces to police reform and improving community-police relations, which has been pushed to the forefront nationwide since George Floyd was killed by four now-former Minneapolis police officers on May 25.