A First in Minnesota: Police Officer Convicted for On-Duty Shooting
By Paul Walsh
The morning after Mohamed Noor became Minnesota's first law enforcement officer to be convicted of murder while on duty, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey acknowledged that trust in his police force needs to be shored up.
Frey's brief news conference Wednesday at City Hall followed the conviction late Tuesday afternoon of Noor on counts of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the July 2017 killing of Justine Ruszczyk Damond behind her home late at night.
"There needs to be a shift in how we do business," said Frey, appearing somber in tone and measured in his words, depending on the questions from reporters.
"There needs to be a rebuilding of trust with police and the community we serve," the mayor continued, adding that he and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo are committed to that goal.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, Frey said: "What matters most for Minneapolis is how we respond in the days and weeks ahead."
"While today's verdict may bring closure to some, it will also serve as a reminder of how far we must go to foster trust where it's been broken," he said. "We must acknowledge that historical and ongoing racialized trauma continues to impact our society."
Damond's fiance, Don Damond, her father, John Ruszczyk, joined Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman after the verdict for a news conference in which Don Damond castigated police for his Justine's death and the initial handling of the investigation.
"Ironically, the Minneapolis Police Department emblem on the squad door reads, 'To protect with courage and to serve with compassion,'?" Don Damond said. "... But that night there was a tragic lapse of care and complete disregard for the sanctity of life. The evidence in this case clearly shows an egregious failure of the Minneapolis Police Department."
Justine Damond's father, John Ruszczyk, accused some Minneapolis police of "active resistance" to the investigation and said Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators showed "gross incompetence."
Frey, while acknowledging the need for improving the public's faith in the city's Police Department, also spoke up for the police rank and file as a whole, saying, "Officers in our department wear the badge they do and the uniform they do because they want to make Minneapolis a better place."
As for what he and other city leaders have done and can do push a to improve police-community relations, Frey pointed to improved compliance by officers in activating their body cameras and a ban on what he called "fear-based" warrior-style instruction _ training that emphasizes ever-present threats and officer survival _ even while off-duty.
He declined to be more specific about what else is needed to promote a "culture shift" other than "broadly speaking, there are shifts underway."
Frey also would not any specifics of the trial, pointing out that there is a pending lawsuit against the city filed by Justine Damond's survivors and alleging a "blue wall of silence" within the Police Department was covering up evidence in the case.
"The case, no matter how you look at it, is heavy," he said. "Minneapolis is an extraordinary city, (but like elsewhere in the country), we also have difficulties with police and community relations. It's a given and a truth, and it's something that should be acknowledged."
(Star Tribune staff writers Chao Xiong and Libor Jany contributed to this report.)
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