Not hailing the chief

Categories: Minneapolis

It's been more than a week since Mayor R.T. Rybak held a press conference to announce his inevitable choice for the next chief of the Minneapolis Police Department. It was smiles all around as 23-year vet of the department Tim Dolan stepped more assuredly into the limelight (he had been interim chief all summer), but Dolan immediately noted that he needed City Council approval to take the job.

And indeed there were voices of dissent, most notably Ralph Remington (10th Ward), Scott Benson (11th Ward), and Elizabeth Glidden (Eighth Ward). Remington, for one, is still squawking.

Remington now echoes many of the concerns from last week, namely that the selection process wasn't open enough to merit a bona fide search. The first-term council member notes that Rybak essentially told him that Hizzoner's choice was Dolan many months ago, and word got around in the MPD and other departments to not even bother trying.

Remington also points out that of the three finalists, none of them were introduced to the community in the form of open and closed-door meetings, as has been the case in the past. Finally, Remington contends, the council members themselves were pretty much kept in the dark as far as the reported 17 candidates.

"We didn't know that number, and we didn't know the finalists, until we read it in the Star Tribune," Remington maintains.

Even if the Dolan choice was a fait accompli, as Remington and others have suggested, then why did the city spend $31,000 on a search firm, nearly matching the $42,000 total it spent during the high-profile search three years ago that yielded previous chief Bill McManus?

Remington's list of grievances goes on. Remington, who is black, notes that in the earlier search, "it was all about finding a black chief. Where did that go?" Remington further points out the absence of viable woman candidates. "I know there are good chiefs out there that fit in those regards," Remington says. "McManus was a special case. He spoke directly to the African American community, which is what this city needs. Some people even called him "BlackManus.'"

For all of the faults of the former chief, Remington argues, that was crucial, seeing that "the black community is most impacted by violent crime."

To hear Remington tell it, Rybak's choice was one of political expediency. "I think what happened this time is that there was an over-correction," Remington surmises. "It was an effort to go for the lowest common denominator, this feeling that we can't go outside the department this time because look at what happened last time."

Remington insists that he has no personal beef with Dolan, but that there were many questions to consider. Aside from Dolan, one of the three finalists was a known quantity: Greg Hestness, a former 28-year veteran of the MPD who now heads the University of Minnesota police department.

But not much is known about the third finalist, Nicholas Metz. Remington says he spent nearly an hour on the phone talking to Metz, who is an assistant chief in Seattle. Metz, it turns out, is African American, was raised in south Minneapolis, and attended Washburn High School. "He was willing to take a paycut to come back home," Remington says. "But none of us even got the chance to meet with him."

To hear Remington tell it, the fight for Dolan's confirmation has only just begun. The mayor's selection must first go the council's Executive Committee before it is forwarded on to the full City Council.

Dolan might not even make it out of the Executive Committee's meeting next Wednesday, according to Remington. That committee includes two yes votes, the mayor and council president Barb Johnson. It also includes a certain no vote in Benson. Two unknowns are Cam Gordon (Second Ward) and Robert Lilligren (Sixth Ward).

"The whole thing could get stopped in Executive," Remington guesses. If the Dolan selection goes in front of the full 13-member council, Remington insists that there isn't a clear majority there either. "It could break 7-6, or even 8-5, either way," Remington says.

"There was this feeling this time that we had to go with the hometown boy, and all of that was wrapped up in some nostalgic xenophobia in Minneapolis," Remington concludes, citing "parochialism at its worst." "It's time to go back to the drawing board, and have an aggressive search."

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