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Minneapolis police chief defends decision to skip community meeting

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Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau continues to defend her decision to cancel a scheduled appearance at a community event last week, for what she's described as “planned physical disruptions” and threats.

Harteau told reporters Wednesday – the same day she met with her advisory council to discuss community relations – she's consistently available as a public figure, adding the police department will continue outreach efforts.

"I'm out here on the north side, spending time like I do, hearing from citizens" she said, according to FOX 9. "I don't just need a building or a meeting room to do that."

The police chief was one of a handful of guests scheduled to attend the Sept. 18 event – set to address police accountability and the department's relations with the community – in south Minneapolis.

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.

“I cannot, in good conscience, be a part of a meeting that has the potential for physical violence.”

The Star Tribune reports Harteau said Wednesday she was worried about a few loud voices drowning out everyone else who wanted to be heard, and had nothing to do with facing tough criticism – adding she's done so before at contentious meeting.

She also said she asked the session to be delayed, rescheduled for a later date, but organizers declined.

Harteau's staff also told FOX 9 the chief met with the community 33 different times in one calendar month this summer.

But Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, told the station she's still waiting for specific answers about why Harteau canceled, and has publicly asked the police chief to host monthly public meetings.

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Criticism mounts

Those in attendance at the Sept. 18 meeting, both 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.”

On the Facebook event page, council member Cano said she was “deeply disappointed by the Chief’s last minute decision” to not attend.

The hashtag #mpdjustice became a trending topic on Twitter locally that evening, with most users expressing disappointment with the chief-less listening session.

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