Dolan gets three more years as police chief

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March 1, 2010 // UPDATED 1:13 pm - March 12, 2010
By: Cristof Traudes
Cristof Traudes
The City Council today voted 8-5 to reappoint Tim Dolan as chief of police.

Dolan, first appointed in 2006, has overseen the Police Department during a time that has included marked drops in the city’s crime rates, while several initiatives he has championed — primarily, the city’s movement toward youth violence prevention — have shown success and, in some cases, have received national attention.

However, Dolan also has been criticized for his dealings with police officers’ infractions and for the department coming in over budget repeatedly during tumultuous financial times at the city.

A lengthy and sometimes emotionally charged discussion preceded the council’s vote.

Clear early on was that those representing the northern parts of the city were strongly behind the chief, a fact emphasized by Council Member Don Samuels (5th Ward). Samuels said the drop in crime on the North Side has been one of the hallmarks of Dolan’s work, and Samuels thanked the chief for helping to decrease the area’s negative stigma. Not to reappoint someone who has left a positive imprint “would make absolutely no sense,” he said.

“If we begin to dismantle the components of our success, we will begin to dismantle our success,” Samuels said.

Council Member Diane Hofstede (3rd Ward) said some city residents have a negative view of Dolan but that that is the result of simply being in the position he is in. Never can all decisions be popular with everyone, Hofstede said.

“Leadership does not come without consequences,” she said.

Council members including Southwest’s Betsy Hodges (13th Ward) and Elizabeth Glidden (8th Ward) voted against the reappointment, although they did applaud Dolan’s attention to youth violence and the drop in crime.

“If I was just going to pick a crime fighter today, I’d support Chief Dolan,” Hodges said.

But there are other issues to keep in mind, she said. Those include clear differences with some parts of the community, especially the Civilian Police Review Authority. A recent evaluation from the citizen board found Dolan’s response to police misconduct insufficient.

Three years ago, the council made improving interaction with the board a priority for the chief, Hodges said, and Dolan did not manage that well.

Glidden pointed toward continuing financial issues. In 2009, the police department was more than $4 million over budget, which caused the city’s Budget Committee to have to scramble for cuts late in the year.

“We need stronger leadership there,” Glidden said.

Council Member Cam Gordon (2nd Ward) also did not support Dolan’s reappointment. Like Hodges, he brought up the council’s list of priorities, finding that on many points, the chief had not met the goals.

Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward) disagreed.

“Do you know how many budget measures are in [the city’s results-measuring project] Results Minneapolis? Zero,” Schiff said. “We hold the police chief accountable by crime rates. … When you look at those numbers, it’s a remarkable accomplishment by this police department.”

Earlier, the Public Safety Committee took about two hours of testimony from more than 40 people. There was a strong split among the speakers, with those focusing on crime drops expressing a lot of support, while those who spoke about community interactions were largely against the reappointment.

Bill Ziegler, president of Little Earth of United Tribes, said there has been an impressive improvement in how the department works with his group. The drop in crime last year, he said, “without the support of the police department, it would never work.”

Other supporters included a Hennepin County commissioner, active participants in the fight against homelessness and the managers of the Seward store that experienced a triple homicide in January. The other end of the spectrum included members of the city’s Green Party — which earlier released a statement opposing the reappointment — and a group that works to stop police infractions.

Kenneth Brown, the former chairman of the city’s Civil Rights Commission, said the department could do better.

“Everybody does good,” Brown said. “Everybody does bad.”

Along with Hofstede, Samuels and Schiff, the council members who voted for the reappointment were Kevin Reich (1st Ward), Barb Johnson (4th Ward), Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), John Quincy (11th Ward) and Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward). Also voting “no” were council members Robert Lilligren (6th Ward) and Meg Tuthill (10th Ward).

Dolan’s term is for three years.