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Top Minneapolis PD official demoted over ‘white boys’ comment

The man was quoted referring to white officers in an interview that prompted internal backlash


This undated photo shows Lt. Art Knight of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Photo/Star Tribune

By Libor Jany
Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo over the weekend demoted a high-ranking deputy, whose comments in a Star Tribune article prompted an internal backlash.

Art Knight, who had served as Arradondo’s chief of staff, was quoted using the term “white boys” in a story that ran in Sunday’s Star Tribune about law enforcement efforts to retain and recruit candidates of color.

Knight will return to his civil service rank of lieutenant. The department wasn’t immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Knight said in an interview that he was “disappointed” by his demotion. He said he stood by his contention that the department wasn’t doing enough to attract women and minorities, but said he could’ve said it differently.

“If I offended anybody with the verbiage of ‘boys,’ then I’m sorry,” he said. “The message was about the lack of diversity, so it’s just frustrating to me -- it’s like certain people are looking for an out, and not make it about it a lack of diversity.”

He said he planned on taking some personal time away from the department as he decided his future.

In Sunday’s story, Knight took a dim view of the department’s efforts to add diversity, saying that if the MPD continues to employ the same tactics to recruit, train and promote ethnic minorities and women on the force then “you’re just going to get the same old white boys.”

The comments were made in an interview earlier this month, in which Knight discussed the need for proclaimed his desire to achieve gender and ethnic diversity through the department’s community service officer program.

In Minneapolis, COVID-19-related budget cuts terminated the program, a two-year curriculum that funnels diverse applicants onto the MPD while they earn their law-enforcement degree, but top brass said they hope to restore it next year.

The backlash to Knight’s comments was almost immediate, with some in the rank-and-file taking to social media to vent their frustrations about a term that was unnecessarily divisive.

Arradondo sent out a departmentwide e-mail around midday Sunday saying the matter was “being addressed internally.”

“Today a Star Tribune article quoted a member of my administration making a statement that used words that were hurtful, unacceptable and does not reflect the attitudes and values of our department,” the e-mail said. “I want to apologize to all those who were offended by that statement.”

Meanwhile, Knight’s backers, both inside the department and out, said the reactions were meant to obscure the MPD’s diversity problem and were rooted in “white fragility.”

North Side council member Jeremiah Ellison said Tuesday he had a “lot of respect” for Knight and his willingness to speak “bluntly” about issues facing the department.

He said he couldn’t comment on the demotion, because he hadn’t yet had a chance to speak with Arradondo or Knight. But, he disagreed with the idea that Knight’s comments were racially motivated.

“The term ‘white boys’ is not a slur, it’s just not -- you can read it into it and you can say well maybe it has a connotation, but show me a history of where it was used to oppress a group of people,” Ellison said. “Quite frankly you can say it’s distasteful or whatever, but at the end of the day it’s not slur, so I don’t think it should be treated as such.

(c)2020 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)