Walz names Metro Transit police chief next public safety commissioner

Gov.-elect Tim Walz announced his next round of cabinet appointees Friday—including current Metro Transit police chief John Harrington as the new Department of Public Safety Commissioner. 

Harrington, a law enforcement veteran, vowed Friday, along with Walz, to rebuild community trust with law enforcement across the state. 

“I can promise that we’ll be a department that is both reflective of the community we serve and responsive to it,” Harrington said. 

He added his vision for law enforcement agencies across the state includes fair and impartial policing and “comprehensive public safety strategies including everything from inclusiveness at emergency management and increased attention to fire safety.”

Harrington will oversee several high profile agencies including the Minnesota State Patrol and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Regarding whether it is time for an independent agency, instead of the BCA, to investigate officer-involved shootings such as Jamar Clark and Philando Castile, as some have demanded, Harrington said it is too soon to address the issue. 

“My expectation in what I have done in the past and what I hope to do in this department is to build an agency that reflects the community and breaks down that barrier of distrust,” Harrington said. “Because when we have that relationship with the community, that distrust goes away.”

Walz, however, said his administration is open to looking at it. 

“Yes we accept this responsibility. We have been with the police and I have been at the coroner’s office with crying mothers after a police shooting and understanding the pain is real,” Walz said. “They’re not pointing fingers or blame. They are simply asking, what any parent and any police officer should ask, let’s make sure my child can go out safely and that they are running towards the police and trust them.”


Walz has filled all but one of his cabinet posts in his new administration, saying Friday he has not found the right person to lead the state’s troubled information technology unit, Minnesota IT Services. 

The division is known as MNIT. It has come under fire over the last year-plus for the botched roll out of MNLARS, a newly-built statewide computer system for vehicle licensing and registration.

“We’re assuming responsibility for this come Monday at noon,” Walz said. “People of Minnesota should expect a clear plan, a fix on the existing situation and a plan going forward to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s what we want to deliver.”

The governor-elect even made a very public plea on Friday asking expert IT personnel from across Minnesota to apply and join his administration.

Walz said he is still deciding whether to keep on Gov. Mark Dayton’s commissioner to help with the transition.