MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau is a sought after guest at law enforcement conferences and conventions around the country, but her heavy travel schedule has some critics asking if she's traveling too much and missing important matters at home.
Chief Harteau agrees she's in demand and talks to groups about a variety of issues including everything from drugs and guns, to terrorism and police training. She told the Fox 9 Investigators in a one-on-one interview that travel is a necessity.
"Law enforcement as a profession has not been looked at and reviewed in a long time which is why you hear about 21st Century policing,” Harteau said. “What worked 20, 30, 40 years ago and what we look at in the type of police officer we want is dramatically different."
The Fox 9 Investigators obtained Harteau's travel expenses from the city. In her nearly three years as chief, she has taken 31 trips for a total of 90 days on the road at a total cost to taxpayers of $23,782.
For comparison, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith has been on 13 trips, 29 days on the road at a cost of $7,588. Chief Smith declined our request for an interview.
Minneapolis' first female Chief said it's important for her to have a seat at the table, nationally. According to the MPD, her trips have resulted in grant dollars of: $600,000 for body cameras, $600,000 to reduce violent crime in Cedar-Riverside and $221,000 to study police misconduct.
"I'm a progressive leader in a progressive department, working for a progressive Mayor," said Harteau.
At city hall, and with the police union, the Chief's travel has raised eyebrows, with some wondering if she was actually out job hunting.
Four of the out-of-state conferences attended by Harteau were also attended separately by Harteau's girlfriend, Brenda Leffler, a Lieutenant Colonel with the Colorado State Patrol. The two announced their relationship a year ago, a few months after Harteau's separation from her wife, a Minneapolis police sergeant.
Harteau had a 5th trip to Denver two years ago to tour the Colorado State Patrol and to watch videos prepared by a counter-terrorism center. Harteau connected that trip to a Homeland Security counterterrorism grant for $100,000. When asked if she went on those trips to see her girlfriend, Harteau responded: "Again, my decisions to travel are what it brings to the city, the police department, and my profession, period."
Harteau is featured prominently in a glossy brochure from the MPD, as "the people's Chief," and her "chats with the Chief."
Critics, like NAACP leader, Nekima Levy-Pounds said the black lives matter occupation of the fourth precinct shows Hateau talks a better game on the road, than she delivers here at home.
"We are not out of the woods, yet. If they do not reign in the Minneapolis Police Department the community will have a response, whether people like it or not," said Levy-Pounds.
When asked if some people believe those relationships on the ground have suffered because of her travel schedule, Harteau said: "Well, I'd love to have a conversation with the people who believe that. Me, being gone nationally has certainly helped and helped build initiatives here. There were people here protesting were from elsewhere. This is all about building relationships and helping the Minneapolis Police Department."