Minneapolis Police Information Officer reflects on job in the aftermath of George Floyd, and that infamous press release

The public information officer for the Minneapolis police department is reflecting on the last four months, and how his job will change in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd.

Starting October 1, 2020, John Elder's role as PIO will be under the city's supervision and not the police department.

WCCO Radio's Susie Jones asked him if he thought the move was punishment because of an incorrect press release that went out the day after Floyd’s death.

"I would hope that our elected officials wouldn't be acting emotionally out of this," said Elder. "That's not how you lead or govern. But I don't think it is punishment."

The Minneapolis City Council voted two months ago to transfer the police department’s public information officer out from under the supervision of the police department. 

"I will tell you we tried it in 2003, when Cyndi Barrington was the PIO and it didn't work," Elder told WCCO. "There have been a number of agencies that have contacted us saying this is going to be problematic to have it run this way."

Still Elder says he's willing and honored to work with the city, and will provide the best information he can to the media.

Looking back:Elder says he's worked every day, since Memorial Day, the day that George Floyd was killed.

He reflected on how the events unfolded. 

"If I'm not there when things happen, I rely on the voice and information from other individuals," Elder said. "I'm only as good as that information is. Obviously that was more than problematic on Memorial Day."

The morning of the Floyd death, Memorial Day, Elder issued a press release;

***Man Dies After Medical Incident During Police Interaction
May 25, 2020 (MINNEAPOLIS) On Monday evening, shortly after 8:00 pm, officers from the Minneapolis Police Department responded to the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South on a report of a forgery in progress.  Officers were advised that the suspect was sitting on top of a blue car and appeared to be under the influence.Two officers arrived and located the suspect, a male believed to be in his 40s, in his car.  He was ordered to step from his car.  After he got out, he physically resisted officers.  Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.  Officers called for an ambulance.  He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later.At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.  The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been called in to investigate this incident at the request of the Minneapolis Police Department.  No officers were injured in the incident.  Body worn cameras were on and activated during this incident.
***

Soon after the release went out the incident was posted on social media, showing what happened in the final moments of the incident.  Officer Derek Chauven is seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck, as Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe.  The video sparked days of protests, and unrest, and a demand that the responding officers be charged, which they later were. The trial for those officers is scheduled for early in 2021.

"What my job is, is to get to the scenes, get the information, vet out what I've been told to the best of my ability, and to release what is going to be public and what's not going to harm the case," Elder tells Susie Jones.

Elder says his goal always is to get it right.  The local media, he says wouldn't allow him to lie.

"They'd hang me out to dry."

As far as going forward, Elder says he thinks being under the city's supervision could slow down the process. The city communications staff is talented, he says, but not familiar with the inner workings of the police department.