May Day this year was highlighted by the announcement of the changing of the guard within the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and, thus, the end of the Dolan era. Mayor R.T. Rybak announced that Assistant Chief Jane Harteau will become the new MPD chief, replacing Chief Tim Dolan, just as Dolan earlier replaced Chief William McManus in 2006.
Dolan, who had over 30 years with the MPD and 35 years in law enforcement altogether, in turn announced that he would take an early departure at the end of the year, which we were the first to report two months ago.
On the surface, it looks like a major change — White male Dolan replaced by Minneapolis’ first female and first Native American chief. Will this new test of leadership bring change or a continuation of the Rybak-Dolan era?
Dolan and Rybak worked in tandem. William McManus, who now serves as chief of the San Antonio Police Department, moved on because he did not enjoy the full trust and support of Rybak. What will the new Chief Harteau do?
The key is not her gender or ethnicity, but how she will deal with statistics in key categories of crime. The City says crime rates are significantly reduced, but we don’t see that in our neighborhoods and on our streets.
We know that incidents that create the numbers and statistics can get “lost,” and we saw with the job hiring compliance numbers that they can also be made up. Know the “secret”: Each morning, Monday through Friday, in the actual Hennepin County courtrooms, we see how the actual number of people coming through the door and appearing before the judges is not consistent with the statistics, be it about plea bargains or trials.
Are Minneapolis streets safer now than five or even 10 years ago? The rate of incarceration coming out of Minneapolis — and we are only talking about Minneapolis, not about all of Hennepin County — raises a serious question of the category of crimes being reduced. Let’s look at some examples.
Example: drugs. There are more drugs on the street in Minneapolis and in communities of color than at any time in the last decade. This negatively impacts education and jobs. All types of drugs continue to flow through our communities, seemingly with impunity.
As we reported in this column five months ago, it is puzzling that Minneapolis may be the only city in the top 50, by population, that does not have a narcotics unit. That is a troubling statistic.
Example: assaults. Although down statistically, the number actually processed through Hennepin County’s Court system for assaults and crimes against persons does not match published statistics. Thus, those who live in the neighborhoods with the highest crime rates, who tell of nightly shootings, violence, ongoing assaults and other criminal activity, do not agree.
Example: censorship. Major print and broadcast media attempt to condition us to believe things are getting better. How will new Chief Renee Harteau prioritize her agenda for fighting crime and making the city safer?
Example: diversity. Citizens conditioned to believe the announced statistics miss that diversity compliance is “demonstrated” with made-up numbers. I have no recollection of the incoming chief showing any strong interest or commitment to improve racial diversity in the department.
In fact, some say Harteau is somewhat soft on the importance of diversity and enhancing the presence of officers of color, and thus she does not work to increase the number of Native American and Black police officers. The statistics do not indicate a vigorous commitment to diversity under either the outgoing or the incoming chief, neither of whom have significantly sought to increase diversity in the ranks.
One thing she will not have to worry about is pressure from Blacks on this issue. They have apparently received their marching orders from the Rybak administration, and thus have orders that say, “Stand down and stay silent.”
We look forward to learning more about what the new incoming Chief Harteau has to say and what her thoughts are on the unprecedented police misconduct against a Black fraternal organization on April 21, 2012. Of course, I have to ask the question if anyone in City government is concerned about what happened inside that fraternal organization’s building.
Jane, we wish you all the best; only history will judge your successes and/or failures.
Columns referenced above are archived at www.theminneapolisstory.com/tocarchives.htm. Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm, and hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “Black Focus V” on Sundays, 3-3:30 pm and Thursdays, 7-8:30 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development, “web log,” and archives at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.