Harrington: 'It's time for new leadership' for St. Paul PDby Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington has decided not to seek reappointment when his term expires this summer, saying he has accomplished what he set out to do.
Harrington, who has been chief since June 2004, announced his decision Wednesday, making way for the city to start searching for a replacement.
In an interview Thursday with MPR's Morning Edition, Harrington said reducing the domestic violence incidence rate and implementing a gang-fighting strategy are among the department's biggest accomplishments under his leadership.
He said he's ready to hand the reins to other well-qualified leaders in the department, and he said he thinks it would be a "waste of taxpayers' money" to search for an outside candidate.
"I've got three assistant chiefs that all are well prepared to be chief," Harrington said. "It's time for new leadership. I think it's time for a fresh set of eyes to look at the problems of the day."
Harrington said when he took over the department, St. Paul police responded to 15,000 domestic calls each year. The number is now 9,000, and the number of domestic homicides has also been reduced, he said.
Harrington said domestic violence has always been an issue he feels strongly about.
"From a moral standpoint, it felt to me that it was such a grievous violation of trust for someone who said they loved you to then try and kill you, or try and injure you or try and terrorize you," he said.
One of the more complicated events the department had to handle during Harrington's tenure was the Republican National Convention, which was held in September 2008. Thousands of law enforcement officers from various agencies helped with security for the event, and the St. Paul Police Department coordinated police response to protests being held outside the Xcel Energy Center.
Police clashed with protesters in several incidents during the week of the convention and arrested dozens of people. Harrington acknowledged there are things he would change if a similar event were held in the future. But he considers the RNC a success, noting there were no serious injuries during the week.
"It required more patience, more diplomacy and more great planning than anything else that we've ever tackled," Harrington said.
Mayor Chris Coleman said in a statement that St. Paul has made "great progress" in community policing and addressing domestic violence under Harrington's leadership.
"During my time as mayor, he has become a trusted adviser and partner as we have worked together to keep St. Paul safe," Coleman said.
Harrington said he hasn't yet decided what he'll do at the end of his term, but it might include resuming Hmong language classes, teaching or finishing his Ph.D.
- Morning Edition, 12/10/2009, 8:35 a.m.