There’s someone we’d like you to meet …

Jan. 22, 2019

The new year is definitely a time for new beginnings. Maybe you’ve started a new exercise routine. Maybe you plan to start your own business this year. Here at the Department of Public Safety, we’re in the middle of our own new beginning: We have a new commissioner.

Commissioner John Harrington

We’d like to welcome Commissioner John Harrington by telling you a little bit about him. A good way to start is by saying that the man knows his way around public safety and public service: He’s been in law enforcement for 40 years.

Harrington started as a patrol cop with the St. Paul Police Department in 1977. He worked his way up to chief of police, a role in which he served from 2004 to 2010. After that came two years with the Minnesota State Senate, followed by a stint as Metro Transit chief of police for the Twin Cities area. That was when Gov. Tim Walz appointed him as our new commissioner.

Along the way, Harrington has taught leadership, demographics, community oriented policing, and gangs for Metropolitan State University, Saint Mary’s University, and the University of St. Thomas; launched and chaired a non-profit that helps African-American men make the transition from prison and gangs to productive community members (check out Ujamaa Place); and somehow found time to raise five children and enjoy 16 grandchildren.

In each of his many endeavors, Harrington is dedicated to diversity and inclusion. He believes it’s essential for law enforcement and other public safety entities to reflect the communities they serve – in fact, as Metro Transit chief of police, he took the department’s diversity from 5 to 50 percent. As public safety commissioner, he envisions fair and impartial policing, inclusiveness in emergency management, increased attention to fire safety, preventing crime and serving all its victims – and that’s just for a start.

Harrington is fond of a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which sums up his attitude toward public safety: “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” In other words, we’re all in this together. We’re excited to have John Harrington at our helm, helping us keep the “public” in public safety.