Despite questions, Dolan takes a step toward becoming Minneapolis police chiefby Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio
Tim Dolan cleared a significant hurdle Wednesday toward becoming Minneapolis' next police chief. The city's executive committee, which includes Mayor R.T. Rybak, forwarded the interim chief's name into nomination. Dolan has considerable support from the city council, but the confirmation process comes during a time of strained community relations. The police department continues to investigate the shooting death of an unarmed south Minneapolis man by two officers last week.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The 4-to-0 vote by the Minneapolis executive committee is a key first step in Dolan's journey to becoming the city's top law enforcement officer. After the vote, Mayor R.T. Rybak said he is confident Dolan has the momentum to complete that journey.
"Chief Dolan has widespread support in this community based on his years of experience dealing with very tough issues--one after the other after the other," Rybak said. "He's been tested by fire and that is one of the reasons I believe he will be a great chief."
Dolan faces a second round with the same committee in less than two weeks, then his nomination moves to the public safety committee, then the full 13-member city council. A majority of council members have already expressed their support for Dolan's selection.
But his nomination is clouded by the shooting death last week of Dominic Felder by two police officers. The officers were responding to a domestic dispute in south Minneaoplis. Felder was unarmed but reportedly threatened to kill a neighbor. The officers shot Felder after he struggled with them.
The Police Community Relations Council, formed out of federal mediations almost three years ago, voted against Dolan's nomination Tuesday night. PCRC Co-Chair Clyde Bellecourt calls the shooting a breaking point.
"The only weapons involved were the two police officers. He weighed 130 pounds and stood five foot four. There's no way in hell nobody can tell me they couldn't use mace or a Taser and taken him down without killing him," he said.
Bellecourt says he's disturbed that police officers are rarely found at fault in investigations of such questionable incidents.
Such concerns are one reason why city council member Robert Lilligren withheld his vote for Dolan during the committee meeting. Lilligren says the nomination process appeared to favor Dolan from the beginning, which Lilligren says could have kept other suitable candidates from coming forward.
"I know there are council members that have concerns. I know there are members of the public that have concerns and now with the greater attention this police chief appointment is getting I think people will have greater interest in voicing those concerns," Lilligren said. "So I'd like to hear those concerns and I'd like to hear the way Dolan proposes to address those concerns before I make a final decision."
Lilligren was one of four city council members who opposed Rybak's previous nomination of Police Chief William McManus. McManus left after his first term to head the San Antonio police department. The community concerns are weigh into city council member Elizabeth Glidden's decision whether to appoint Dolan. The shooting happened in the ward she represents and she's working to help Felder's family deal with the tragedy. She says she will look into the PCRC's scrutiny before making up her mind.
"I certainly listen to what they say," Glidden said. "I think it's important and they're there for a purpose. They're there for a purpose. They were appointed to be the community representatives working on the federal mediation agreement."
Mayor Rybak insists the concerns expressed by the PCRC are out of step with the remainder of the community. He says the both the shooting investigation and Dolan's nomination should continue.
"We are in the midst of a very serious investigation of a very serious incident and we will take it very seriously as we always do. It is important however to always move forward with the best choice and we certainly have that," he said.
The public will get a chance to express their view of the candidate before the nomination goes to the full council.
- All Things Considered, 09/27/2006, 5:49 p.m.