One of the most embattled police departments in America has a new police chief and he’s a Kearny son and graduate of Kearny High School.
On Thursday, Nov. 3, the Minneapolis City Council approved Mayor Jacob Frey’s nomination of Kearny native Brian O’Hara, Kearny HS Class of 1997, to serve as police chief. O’Hara joins the city after serving as deputy mayor of Newark, in charge of overseeing strategic public safety initiatives, and before that, having served as Public Safety Director in Newark.
He officially starts his new role Monday, Nov. 7.
In 2001, O’Hara joined the Newark Police Department as a police officer, rising through the ranks to become a captain in 2016.
In 2021, Mayor Ras J. Baraka appointed him to the public safety directorship, where he oversaw more than 1,960 employees comprising 996 sworn police officers, 611 firefighters and 346 civilian employees with a budget that exceeded $200 million.
In that role, O’Hara enhanced the collaborative working relationships among federal, state and local partners.
As former captain of the Newark PD’s Consent Decree & Planning Division (2017-2020), O’Hara worked extensively with the Department of Justice on the 2016 consent order between the feds and the City of Newark.
In Minneapolis, the chief of police position is carries a four-year appointment.
“This moment matters,” Frey said. “The act of stepping up for this job – at this time – is an act of courage, and Brian O’Hara is exactly the type of person our city, our community, and our police department needs right now. He is an inclusive leader, a forward thinker and a person of the highest moral integrity. His unrelenting willingness to show up and be present will allow him to succeed in driving police reform, reducing violent crime, and strengthening police-community relations. I look forward to witnessing Chief O’Hara’s legacy in Minneapolis.”
Frey was Minneapolis’s mayor when George P. Floyd was killed under the knees of that department’s former officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020. Chauvin was convicted of murder in 2021 and was sentenced to 22½ years in prison.
But the damage done to the department as it was constituted at the time time was too severe to recover without a change in leadership. And Frey, the city’s popular mayor, chose a Kearny native to implement those reforms.
“I believe that things happen for a reason,” O’Hara said. “I believe very deeply that the experiences that I have had in the City of Newark, working with community and working with police officers to bring about some meaningful changes, are experiences that are directly applicable to the current challenges that are facing the residents of this community. I’m incredibly honored and humbled to have the opportunity to be part of the change here in Minneapolis.”
O’Hara replaces the former chief, Medaria Arradondo, who was at the helm at the time of Floyd’s death. In a rare move, Arradondo testified against Chauvin at trial. Arradondo was appointed chief in 2017 and retired Jan. 15, 2022. He was the first and only Black chief of police in Minneapolis history.
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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.