Minneapolis police deputy chief demoted for 'white boys' comment

Art Knight says people offended by his turn of phrase are missing the point.

Art Knight says people offended by his turn of phrase are missing the point. City of Minneapolis

Art Knight has a problem, and it is that he sometimes says things that are a little too true for his own good.

Back in January, Knight, a 28-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, was testifying to the City Council about police de-escalation tactics and the use of body cameras. Speaking in a less-charged, pre-George Floyd moment, Knight candidly and casually guessed "3 to 6 percent" of the people on the force shouldn't be.

"I'll be the first one to say that," Knight said. "We have some members on this force that shouldn't be there." 

The first and the last, apparently. Department spokesman John Elder later told City Pages what Knight meant was that cops deal with "3 to 6 percent of the population." 

Sure. That's what he meant.

At the time of that City Council meeting, Knight was deputy chief of the department and chief of staff, a position he'd held since 2017. That ended Monday, according to a report by KMOJ, which says Knight was swiftly demoted to lieutenant following a statement published in Sunday's Star Tribune.

Knight was quoted exactly once in a lengthy story about attempts to diversify police departments, and it wasn't even a full sentence. Here's the whole thing:

In Minneapolis, budget cuts terminated the Community Service Officer program, a two-year curriculum that funnels diverse applicants onto the Police Department while they earn their law-enforcement degree.
Top brass hopes to restore the program next year but admit they will have to take another look at the way the agency recruits, trains and promotes ethnic minorities and women on the force. If you keep employing the same tactics, said MPD chief of staff Art Knight, “you’re just going to get the same old white boys.”

That's it.

KMOJ says it did not hear back from department chief Medaria Arradondo about Knight's demotion, and it's not clear whether the "people... offended" were simply Star Tribune readers or, perhaps, his fellow cops. Knight, for his part, tells the radio station "it's a shame one sentence could hijack the narrative." Knight said anyone upset about his phrasing is missing the larger point.

"People should be more offended at the lack of diversity in the department rather than my word choice."

Knight added that he plans to take a few days to consider what to do in response to his demotion.