Dolan appears headed for approval as Minneapolis police chiefby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
A Minneapolis Council committee has approved Tim Dolan's nomination and sent it on to the full Council which meets on Friday. Before Wednesday's vote, Dolan listened to an hour and a half of public testimony about his qualifications to lead the department. Most favored his appointment, but he heard from some vocal opponents, too. Dolan also faced more tough questions from members of the council who say they aren't sure if they want him to become the next chief, including one council member who brought up the chief's own juvenile arrest record.
Minneapolis, Minn. — The meeting of the Public Safety and Regulatory Services committee was the penultimate hurdle to Tim Dolan's appointment as the new chief of police. For the last six months Dolan has served the interim police chief and during that time he's been open about his desire for the permanent job. Dolan used the committee meeting to make one more appeal to the council on his own behalf.
"I have the educational background. I have the experience. I've successfully dealt with some of the toughest incidents that we've had in the city of Minneapolis in the last several years," he said.
Dolan was in charge of the 4th Precinct in north Minneapolis four years ago when a riot broke out after a young boy was wounded by fire from an officers gun. Since becoming a deputy chief and later assistant chief, Dolan has helped the department figure out how to manage it's $100 million budget at a time when the city lost state aid.
But some say Dolan's best qualification is his familiarity with the city of Minneapolis and the police department. As a native of north Minneapolis and 23-year veteran of the force, Dolan has made a lot of connections over the years and some of the people he's met, like Jean Sanders, spoke in favor of his nomination.
"He personally took time to come to my home, introduce himself to me and to listen to my concerns about my neighborhood. And a lot of you-know-what goes on in my neighborhood," she said.
Sanders lives in north Minneapolis, which contains some of the most crime-challenged neighborhoods in the city. Sanders runs a daycare service there and says she was worried about the drug and gang activity in the area.
"Because of what he has done, my neighborhood now is safe. My children are safe, which is my number one concern -- my daycare children. And I've received compliments from my daycare parents at the work that this man has done in my neighborhood."
But some say Dolan's experience with the department is the reason the Council should reject his nomination.
"I have come here to oppose the approval of Tim Dolan for police chief," said Dave Bicking, a Minneapolis business-owner who has run as a Green Party candidate for city office.
"Dolan represents the status quo for the Minneapolis police department. And the status quo is simply not acceptable," he said.
Bicking and others say they are concerned that as a department insider, Dolan will be unable to change police culture. Bicking and other anti-police brutality activists say Minneapolis has a problem with officers who often use excessive force. Some of those incidents result in thousands of dollars in legal settlements that are paid out with taxpayer dollars.
Recently a man who was described as undergoing a breakdown was shot seven times and killed by two police officers during a struggle. The police say the man was grabbing one of the officer's guns.
James Livingstone told the committee, that incident particularly worried him because he's bipolar.
"I don't worry about the gangs. I can walk right through them. I worry about being shot by a cop, because he thinks I'm acting crazy," he said.
Several City Council members have voiced reservations about Dolan based on their own concerns about his ability to discipline officers that he's known for years on the force. But even those who are reluctant to approve Dolan's appointment, like Councilmember Ralph Remington, say Dolan is likable. Remington and Dolan engaged in this exchange when Remington asked Dolan about his juvenile criminal record.
"When you were a juvenile you were arrested, right," Remington asked.
"That's correct," Dolan said.
Dolan admitted that as a teenager that he took a joyride in a bulldozer at a construction site and also set fire to a mailbox.
Remington asked, "Was it an attached mailbox?"
"Detached," Dolan said. "And actually, the nuns of St. Phillips had their Christmas cards in there at the time. So I was not a very popular person."
Dolan added that if he had been 18 at the time of the crimes, he would not have been allowed to join the Minneapolis police force. Dolan says he'd like to relax the state's strict licensing standards to allow for exemptions because he'd like others to get the second chance that he got.
Councilmembers who are still on the fence about Dolan's appointment will have another chance to voice their concerns before the vote is taken on Friday.
- All Things Considered, 10/18/2006, 5:50 p.m.