Mayor Carter taps Axel Henry for St. Paul police chief

Photo by Henry Pan Cmdr. Axel Henry speaks with reporters after Mayor Melvin Carter announced him as his pick for St. Paul Police Chief.

After a monthslong search, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter has selected Cmdr. Axel Henry from a pool of five finalists to be the next Chief of St. Paul Police. 

“I’m confident that Chief Axel Henry will uphold the highest level of service our community has come to expect as we work to move our capital city forward,” said Mayor Carter at a Nov. 1 press conference that took place in the lobby of St Paul City Hall.

Henry has a long, decorated history with the department. He started in 1998 and has experience leading two precincts, as well as units addressing the pandemic response, family and sexual violence, and most recently narcotics, finance, and human trafficking. He is also a so-called use-of-force expert, a field training officer, and persuaded the department to adopt body-worn cameras.

On how he persuaded the department to adopt body-worn cameras, Henry said, “There’s a difference between transactional leadership and transformational leadership. It’s basically telling versus selling. When we tried to sell our workforce, we don’t want employees that follow orders. We want to create believers, and you don’t get that through ordering people around.”

As chief, Henry pledges to better engage the workforce and the community. “We got to start creating those connections, so people actually have tangible takeaways,” said Henry, adding that he plans to connect community members to housing, jobs, and “why it is important to maybe wear a button-up shirt to a job interview.” 

Henry grew up in St. Paul’s Macalester-Groveland neighborhood and graduated from Central High School. He went to college at the University of St. Thomas. 

The chief is not without controversy. About a decade ago, he was named in a complaint for using the Driver and Vehicle Services database to look people up. The complaint was unsubstantiated. 

Henry’s appointment still needs to be considered by the St. Paul City Council. If approved, he will serve for six years. 

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