MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced Wednesday that the force will immediately withdraw from contract negotiations with the police union as part of a push to reform the department in the wake of George Floyd’s death, which sparked days of protest and riots in the city, as well as a call from local leaders to defund and dismantle the department.

At a morning press conference, the chief said he plans to bring in outside experts to examine how the contract with the Police Officers Federation can be restructured to provide greater transparency and “flexibility for true reform.”

Arradondo says his announcement would be the first of many he hopes will provide a pathway or a plan to provide actionable measures for reform.

“This is not about officers’ wages, bonuses or salaries,” Arradondo said. “This is about examining those significant matters that touch on things such as critical incident protocol, use of force…and also the discipline process to include both grievances and arbitration.”

There is nothing more debilitating to a chief, Arradondo explained, than when they have grounds to terminate a problem officer and a third party mechanism allows the officer to not only be back on the force, but patrolling on the streets.

When asked if Lt. Bob Kroll, the president of the police union, needs to step down, Arradondo said that he’s been in conversation with Kroll and that there are “going to have to be some decisions made.” Arradondo made it clear that Kroll is aware of where the chief stands on such matters, but did not elaborate further.

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“We have to look into our hearts, what’s in our best interests,” Arradondo said. “I hope that he will do the same.”

Earlier this month, former Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau called for Kroll to resign, tweeting that he is a “disgrace to the badge” and an obstacle to police reform. The call from Harteau came after Kroll wrote a letter criticizing the response of city leaders to the protests and defending the four officers fired in Floyd’s death.

Along with announcing the withdrawal from negotiations with the union, Arradondo outlined another plan for reform within the department: using real-time data to alert supervisors to problematic behavior by individual officers so that police leaders can quickly intervene. He wants to address critical incident protocol, use of force, the role of supervisors and the discipline process.

“We will have a police department that our communities view as legitimate, trusting and working with their best interests at heart,” he said.

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The chief also addressed the connection between race and policing.

“We will never evolve in this profession if we do not address [race] head-on,” Arradondo said. “Communities of color have paid the heaviest of costs, and that is with their lives.”

Arradondo, who grew up in Minneapolis and became its first black police chief in 2017, said that when he was child he looked up to the few black men and women then in uniform. He said that since joining the force, he’s dedicated his efforts to service and healing. At one time, he and four other black officers successfully sued the department for discrimination in pay, promotions and discipline.

“I did not abandon this department then, and I will not abandon this department now,” he said Wednesday. “History is being written now, and I’m determined that we are on the right side of history.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey lauded Arradondo’s decision to withdraw from negotiations with the police union. Earlier this week, the mayor told WCCO-TV that any significant reform with the department must be aimed at the union.

“We don’t just need a new contract with the police,” Frey said, in a statement. “We need a new compact between the people of Minneapolis and the people trusted to protect and serve – and we need to go farther than we ever have in making sweeping structural reform.”

Arradondo’s push for reform comes in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police.

On May 25, Floyd died after ex-officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into the 46-year-old’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Widely-seen cellphone video of the fatal arrest showed that Floyd was handcuffed, lying on his stomach and repeatedly telling officers he couldn’t breathe just moments before his death.

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Chauvin, whose name Arradondo refused to say at Wednesday’s press conference, is facing charges of second-degree murder.

“For me that person is no longer a part of this organization and I wont waste the energy or time to mention the name,” Arradondo said.

Three other former officers involved in the arrest are charged with aiding and abetting murder.

Floyd’s death sparked protests and riots in Minneapolis and across the nation. Nights of looting and fires left hundreds of businesses damaged in the Twin Cities; dozens of which were entirely destroyed. The economic impact is still being calculated and has already surpassed $55 million in Minneapolis alone.

In response to Floyd’s death, activists have called for the police department to be abolished. Moreover, nine of the 13 Minneapolis City Council members announced over the weekend that they intend to defund and dismantle the department. The idea appeared to be at the top of Arradondo’s mind during Wednesday’s press conference, as he began his remarks by telling the public: “You will not be abandoned.”

Later, when asked by a reporter about the push to defund the police, Arradondo said that elected officials can talk about such proposals and come up with designs for a new system of public safety, but he doesn’t plan on stepping down anytime soon.

“Until there is a robust plan that ensures the safety of our residents,” he said, “I will not leave them.”

WCCO spoke with several visitors at the George Floyd vigil at 38th Street South and Chicago Avenue about Arradondo’s announcement.

“I definitely see it as a step in the right direction for sure. We just want a better community, place to live. And if he can see that, make a stride toward a goal, definitely,” Payton Gentry, of Duluth, said.

The Minneapolis Police Officers Federation released this statement Wednesday night, saying in part that Chief Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey blindsided them with their announcement. The statement also said that the chief and mayor may be violating “state law, the city charter, and the city’s process agreement with the Federation” by walking away from negotiations.

“The Federation acknowledges that, as a result of the senseless death of Mr. Floyd, the public rightfully expects that talk is not enough and changes must actually be made. Change needs to be made for many reasons but primarily to prevent another horrific event such as this or even less egregious types of misconduct. However, the law and common sense both require that these changes result from a collaborative effort between the Administration and the Federation.”

NOTE: WCCO-TV anchor/reporter Liz Collin is married to Bob Kroll. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, Liz has not reported on Minneapolis Police and Minneapolis Police Union issues for at least two-and-a-half years.

Reg Chapman