Popped off about the top cop

Categories: Minneapolis

Monday's press conference to announce Tim Dolan as Mayor R.T. Rybak's choice to be the next chief of the Minneapolis Police Department had a decidedly low-key vibe. Dolan had been acting chief, after all, since Bill McManus shuffled off to San Antonio this spring. Most people wondered why Rybak would even go through the motions of a search.

And for that, there was a lack of sour grapes at the city's 2nd Precinct station on Central Avenue in Northeast. One of the final three candidates, University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness, said the selection of Dolan over him "absolutely worked out well for both of us." (Hestness, who was with the MPD for 28 years, has known Dolan almost as long as that, and was his supervisor for three years when Dolan led the Fourth Precinct.)

MPD Assistant Chief Sharon Lubinski, who was a finalist for the job that eventually went to McManus three years ago, noted that working with Dolan this summer "has been the most collegial boss/employee relationship I've ever had."

Even John Delmonico, head of the police union that represents the rank and file, was unusually placated. "He's the right guy for the right job," Delmonico said, adding that he and Dolan played hockey together when both were students at De La Salle High School. "He's a smart man, who is highly educated and innovative."

Dolan, 51, would appear to be the most qualified candidate for the job.(Besides Dolan and Hestness, the third finalist was an assistant chief from Seattle.)

He does have a B.A. and master's from St. Thomas in public safety and administration. And though he lives in Edina, with his wife and four sons, he grew up and spent much of his career on the North Side. Besides, Dolan was all but groomed for the position by McManus, taking over most of the day-to-day operations of the MPD. "He gave me the opportunity to fill in some of the blanks in my policing experience," Dolan said.

Then again, some worry that Dolan, who admitted to being "nervous" at the outset of the press conference, might be too tied to the status quo of the MPD. "I'm a very independent person," Dolan said in response. "I am not status quo. There is no Tim Dolan clique in the department."

And with that, Dolan noted that he still needed to be approved by the Minneapolis City Council, which may prove to be a bigger challenge than anyone thought. Council President Barb Johnson said she "hadn't started counting votes" yet, but felt that a majority of the council, like her, would support Rybak's choice.

But there was discontent among other council members. Ralph Remington (10th Ward) told the Star Tribune that the selection process was "secretive and perfunctory." Scott Benson (11th Ward) told the paper that he wants a chief with "more transparency, more honesty, and a willingness to follow adopted policy."

But Rybak did, after all, hire a firm to help with the search to the tune of $30,000. And there was a 12-person search committee made up of elected and community leaders handpicked by hizzoner himself. Some felt he should have just named Dolan earlier in the year, before the summer crime wave hit. Even Rybak admitted that some might have felt the search was taking too long, but that he wanted to review all candidates.

Council member Elizabeth Glidden (Eighth Ward) thinks that having Dolan in the mix so early actually lowered the quality of applicants. "By indicating a favorite before the search, that affects the pool," Glidden says, adding that she's not knocking Dolan's bona fides. "[The selection process] certainly could have been better. I think it's pretty common to have finalists have interaction and meetings with the community before the finalist is chosen ... I wish that would have happened this time out."

Last time Rybak's search was high-profile, with much talk about choosing a woman or a person of color to be the chief. (Ultimately, it went to the decidedly white and male McManus.) This time out, however, the search was nearly off the radar, and discussions of gender and race were never in the air.

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