In a move that surprised few City Hall insiders but is likely to spark an emotional debate, Mayor R.T. Rybak on Monday formally nominated Tim Dolan to be the next Minneapolis police chief.
“It’s one of the most significant decisions I’ll ever make and one of the easiest decisions I’ll ever make,” Rybak said in announcing the nomination at the Second Precinct in Northeast Minneapolis. He cited Dolan’s 23 years on the force, his “laser-sharp focus” on youth violence, and his commitment to the city.
“It helps that he knows every corner of the department,” Rybak explained. “He knows when to keep doing the same thing and when to reform.”
Dolan, who has been serving as interim chief since former chief William McManus left to become chief of the San Antonio Police Department in March, said he was “really excited and really nervous” about the nomination, because he has roots on the North Side and people were counting on him to solve the city’s escalating epidemic of violent crime. “It’s an extra weight,” he said. “It’s very personal.”
It’s the second time that Rybak has selected a police chief in his almost five years in office, and though Dolan’s nomination was widely expected by City Council members, the council is badly split on whether the mayor was seriously committed to a national search or content to hire a well-liked department veteran. Rybak and his selection committee, chaired by School Board member Peggy Flanagan and community activist Rev. Al Gallmon, interviewed three other candidates, including Seattle Police Chief Nicholas Metz during a process Dolan called “rigorous.”
On the day of his final interview, Dolan said, he drove over to his old Northside neighborhood, where he spent an hour preparing for the expected grilling by the selection committee. “I was asking for a little inspiration and guidance,” he recalled. “And it worked.”
The mild-mannered Dolan was asked whether he thought he was “tough enough” to run a department that for years has been stained by allegations of police brutality and racial profiling. He noted that has been overseeing department discipline during the past two years, a period in which 15 officers have departed or been terminated. “We’ve been tough when we’ve needed to be tough,” he said.
Asked whether he supported council-led reforms in the ordinance governing the Civilian Review Authority, reforms that would strip the chief of some of his autonomy in disciplining officers, Dolan said he was “willing to work with that process.”
That was good news to Council Member Betsy Hodges, who has been leading the CRA reform effort. But she’s withholding judgment on the Dolan nomination. “I’m not sure that Dolan is the leader who can stand up to forces against those changes, including the police federation,” she said.
Hodges is one of perhaps seven council members still withholding their support for Dolan’s confirmation. One of those, Elizabeth Glidden, said she has “important concerns” about Dolan’s positions on diversity in the police force, the department’s accountability, and Dolan’s commitment to police-community relations. She’s not alone with these questions, she noted. “People have strong feelings about this.”
Her colleague Don Samuels, a Dolan supporter, was more optimistic. “We have an advantage on the North Side because Dolan has an investment in the that community,” he said. “People on the North Side trust him.
Minneapolis Urban League president Duane Reed said he was not happy with the hiring process, and noted that “the jury’s still out” on Dolan’s leadership capabilities. But, he conceded that he enjoys a “very good” relationship with Dolan, and said he deserves a chance to show what he can do. “He’s done all the right things.”
Rybak will take the nomination to the City Council’s executive committee September 27 for its first debate. The full council will debate the confirmation by mid-October.