Dolan takes first steps toward new term as police chiefby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — Members of the Minneapolis City Council have accepted Mayor R.T. Rybak's nomination of Tim Dolan to serve another term as police chief. But not all of them are ready to support the chief for another term.
Mayor Rybak says he nominated Dolan to serve another three-year term because the chief has met the most important criteria for a law enforcement leader -- he's made the city safer.
Rybak says at the end of 2009, violent crime in the city reached a 46-year low. And even though crime has been on a downward trend nationwide, Rybak says Dolan has had a direct hand in making Minneapolis safer than other places in the country.
"Chief Dolan came into office and laid out a comprehensive strategy for crimefighting that included putting more officers on the street, targeting chronic offenders, long-term strategic work on youth violence prevention, and stronger partnerships with the community," said Rybak.
But for some City Council members, crime rates are just one measure of Dolan's performance. Council member Elizabeth Glidden raised concerns about Dolan's ability to keep the police department within its budget. Last year, the department went over budget by several million dollars.
"And that was not the only year with a large overage. This is a really important duty of a department head -- to be able to come in on budget," said Glidden.
Glidden says she understands it's hard to manage a department budget during the current economy. But with more state aid cuts on the horizon, Glidden says it's more important than ever that Dolan get a handle on the department's finances.
Glidden says she'll remain undecided about Dolan until she is confident the chief has a plan to prevent further budget problems.
Council Member Robert Lilligren says he's undecided, too, partly because of the department's budget problems. Lilligren worries that Dolan will pull the plug on two safety centers, partially staffed by police officers, that he says have reduced crime in his ward.
"That reduction in crime has consequently encouraged tremendous amounts of public and private investment in those parts of the city," said Lilligren. "I would point to the intersection of Chicago and Lake, where there's been literally hundreds of millions of dollars of public and private investment based on the increased security in that area."
Lilligren says he'll remain undecided on the chief's reappointment until he gets a chance to discuss his concerns with Dolan.
Chief Dolan will have a harder time winning over critics who say he has damaged relations between the department and the community. Members of the Civilian Review Authority, the body which hears citizen complaints against police officers, say Dolan has continually failed to act on those complaints.
They say that in most cases where a complaint against an officer has been sustained, Dolan has refused to discipline the officer despite a provision that requires punishment in such cases.
Recently, a pair of city residents filed a court action to force Dolan to follow the provision. The judge has not yet ruled on the request.
The next step in Chief Dolan's confirmation process will take place on March 3, when the City Council hosts a public hearing on the appointment.
- All Things Considered, 02/17/2010, 5:44 p.m.