Hail to the chief--whoever that is

Categories: Minneapolis

Now that Bill McManus has shuffled off to San Antonio, the biggest story around City Hall is who might replace the Minneapolis police chief.

Mayor R.T. Rybak tapped Assistant Chief Tim Dolan to serve as interim chief. In the short term, at least, Dolan makes sense: He has been overseeing the day-to-day operations of the department for some time.

Still, most observers couldn't help but notice that Dolan's stature has risen since the last chief search more than two years ago.

Then, City Hall watchers often named Dolan as one of the top three internal candidates. Ultimately, though, he didn't make the list of finalists. As a potential hire from within the department, Dolan was firmly behind two others in the MPD, Sharon Lubinski and Lucy Gerold, both of whom have since risen to the rank of deputy chief. But it became evident that McManus was, to some extent, grooming Dolan to take over. Now, it would appear as though Dolan is in the driver's seat.

Or is he? The mayor's office and initial media reports played up Dolan's "straight shooter" demeanor and neighborhood bona fides. But before Rybak chose McManus as the new boss in late 2003, most City Council members made it clear that they would prefer either Lubinski or Gerold. Now, that's not necessarily the case.

"I want who is most qualified," says City Council President Barb Johnson, who last time around was a proponent of having a woman in the position.

Council member Gary Schiff (Ninth Ward), who still sees great potential in Sharon Lubinski, has also changed his tune slightly. "I think the important thing is that you have four or five strong internal candidates," Schiff notes, saying that Deputy Chief Don Harris and Lt. Lee Edwards, who heads the department's homicide division, are now in the pool.

Johnson notes that in 2004, "Dolan really did a marvelous job managing the budget. We carried about 30 more cops just because he managed the checkbook week-to-week."

That praise aside, Dolan doesn't seem to have a sure path to the post. Given the department's longstanding problems involving race and civil rights, there may be pressure from the City Council and the community for Rybak to finally end the succession of white men who have led the MPD. In addition to the strong female candidates--Lubinski and Gerold--Harris and Edwards are both African American.

It remains possible that Rybak will conduct a nationwide search. But all indications are that the council would prefer to stick close to home. "I contend that knowing the city of Minneapolis is one of the main qualifications for this job," Schiff says, adding that an internal hire would be the easiest on everyone after going through a divisive process last time. "Of those, the council is going to confirm whoever is the mayor's choice. Nobody's got time for playing those games."

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