Citing "credible information" about "planned physical disruptions" and threats, Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau canceled her appearance at a Thursday evening Minneapolis neighborhood listening session with little warning – an event scheduled to address police accountability.
But those in attendance, the crowd and panel, were quickly critical of the decision.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a St. Thomas law professor who served as moderator, openly pointed out the absence.
"There is a face that is missing. Hm, what face is that? Ah, it's the police," she said at the meeting, according to KARE 11. She also called the chief's decision "disrespectful."
'Credible information' of threat led to withdrawal
Harteau was one of a handful of guests scheduled to attend the event, slated for 6 p.m. at the Sabathani Community Center in south Minneapolis. WCCO says it was organized after community activist Al Flowers was briefly arrested in July.
"Do you have ideas for how to improve the relationship between the Minneapolis Police Department and our communities? Are there any changes you'd like to propose to help make our neighborhoods safer? Chief Harteau is listening," says the Facebook page created for the event by City Council member Alondra Cano.
But shortly before the meeting was set to begin, Harteau announced she was pulling out, saying in a message posted on the police department's Facebook page it had to do with the potential for physical violence.
"The MPD received credible information from a long-standing community leader, in addition to a number of other sources, about planned physical disruptions at a 'community listening session' that I was scheduled to attend," the message said. "Based on these known threats, which were outright and open in social media forums, I have decided it is in the best interest of community public safety to cancel my appearance."
Harteau then noted she has a "long history" of being at such community meetings, in all areas of the city, "especially after particularly violent episodes."
But she added, "I cannot, in good conscience, be a part of a meeting that has the potential for physical violence."
No Minneapolis police officers attended the event.
She later told reporters the sources said "agitators" were planning to attend the meeting with the goal of physical confrontation with officers, FOX 9 reports.
Harteau's decision criticized
Many of the people in attendance – who came expecting a discussion about the relationship between the police force and the city's citizens – were unhappy with Harteau's decision.
On the Facebook event page, council member Cano said she was "deeply disappointed by the Chief's last minute decision" to not attend.
The president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, Michelle Gross, told FOX 9 Harteau's cancellation shows she is afraid.
“I don’t think they were planning on this many people being here with a focus on confronting this issue,” Steve Shagwell told WCCO, calling Harteau's backing out just an excuse.
The hashtag #mpdjustice became a trending topic on Twitter locally Thursday evening, with most users expressing disappointment with the chief-less listening session.