3 questions: Tim Dolan

Categories: Minneapolis

One of the toughest campaigns of this political season had nothing to do with elected office. Rather, it was the one waged by Tim Dolan, who had been acting chief of the Minneapolis Police Department for most of the year, in his quest to officially be the city's top cop.

When he was selected by Mayor R.T. Rybak to move from temporary to permanent chief in September, Dolan immediately had to withstand the scrutiny of folks who felt the selection process was secretive and flawed. Many members of the Minneapolis City Council, who vote to confirm the mayor's choice, repeatedly grilled Dolan in various committee meetings over how he might lead the department.

Eventually, the council confirmed the nearly unflappable Dolan by a vote of 12-1, which would seem to indicate that most city leaders came around to Dolan after some rather pointed debates about his qualifications. The 23-year veteran of the MPD is, as he points out, the only chief in recent history to receive that many votes for confirmation. Still, with the recent deaths of two persons of color at the hands of MPD officers, and a small-but-nagging upswing in violent crime, it appears unlikely that Dolan's first months at the helm will be smooth sailing.

Dolan answered three questions from City Pages via e-mail.

City Pages: Ralph Remington--the only council member to vote against you--has offered to have a beer sometime and talk things over. What will you say to him?

Tim Dolan: I have talked one-on-one with Remington a few times. Those conversations have always been cordial. Remington wanted a different process for chief--a process with more involvement on the front end for the council. He realizes that I do not control that, and he has been clear that he will work with me now that the choice has been made. I also fully agree with Remington that critical debate is essential for a true democracy.

CP: Although you've stated for the record that you have plans to continue "diversifying" the police force and to step up some discipline on sustained cases of misconduct from the Civilian Review Authority (a citizen board that investigates complaints against the MPD), there's still a huge mistrust between communities of color and the department. Support in those circles aren't nearly as strong for you as it was for your predecessor. How do you plan on strengthening those relationships?

On a related note, institutionally speaking, the MPD has been viewed as a place with a culture that allows, or even encourages, racist attitudes. What plans, if any, do you have to counter that?

TD: The Minneapolis Police Department is the most diverse police department in Minnesota. The last two recruit classes were about fifty percent people of color and included the first Somali recruit in Minnesota. He may be one of the first in the United States.

We will continue moving forward on diversity hiring, since that is a major component of gaining trust in minority communities. The reality is also that Minneapolis is not on the high end of citizen complaints against officers. When we look at complaints-per-officer statistics, we are in the middle. We do want to improve on that rating.

In addition to increasing diversity, we have squad cameras and recording systems in every primary and secondary marked squad. We will be moving to improve that technology. We will also continue making our investigations, internal and external, more transparent.

As for my relations with minority communities--I have very good relations with most of our minority communities. The chief selection process became a political situation that was more about how some people felt about the mayor, and his selection process, than the candidate. My work now, and I have already started, is to repair some of those relations that were strained in the selection process.

CP: Conventional wisdom from the MPD is that the uptick in crime this year is largely due to juvenile crime. I know you've addressed truancy as one issue, but aren't there issues here that go beyond simple law enforcement? Why do you think there are so many juveniles involved in these crimes?

TD: A lot of bad stars aligned on this issue--but most can be traced to reduced budgets throughout the criminal justice system, schools, and social service providers. We have cut programming, services, and even [how] police deal proactively with juvenile crime. We all recognize this, and we are all starting to work together to make system-wide changes.

I am working with those partners, but I also realize that I have to take care of "our business." I will balance tough enforcement on serious crime with proactive work in truancy prevention.

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