Weathering the Storm

MPD chief William McManus on his early tenure

McManus: Right. You can't just go out and grab people if they're not wanted. But in many cities across the country they have what they call repeat offender units. Most of the bigger departments will have that. The trick is, keep your eye on these folks, keep your sources close to you, and you watch when they're ready to do something. And it doesn't take long. You've got to keep a close eye on them, and you've got to have your sources.

CP:Is it fair to say that a lot of what we're seeing on the north side, at least since you've been on the job--and I hate to say it, but we're getting into the violent season here--is it fair to say that it's just a handful of individuals, or is it more widespread than that?

McManus:I would say it's a segment of individuals. And within that segment--a few of the segments I'm talking about are your gangbangers and your drug dealers--you have a few people.

CP:We've had a situation where there haven't been a lot of people willing to come forward and talk to police from the community, and I know that can be a tipping point when you're talking about certain high-crime areas. Can you do that? Can you get the people to come forward?

McManus: Yeah. We turned a good corner in our relationship with the community.

CP:What did you do?

McManus: I guess it's our willingness now to work more closely with the community, to be as transparent in our dealings with them, and just--you know, I speak with some of these community leaders every day. At least once a week doesn't go by where I'm not talking about various issues, checking in, and [have community leaders] just talking man-to-man with me. I've been very up-front with the community about what my style will be when it comes to dealing with the press. And I've made it clear to them that before I deal with the press--they'll never be surprised by what I do in the press that relates to something that is of concern or interest to them. And that's the way I've always been.

CP:I think Chief Olson drew high marks from some of the people we're talking about, but again there was this perception that it's not about the chief, it's the institution itself.

McManus: But the institution gets its direction from the chief. I don't think the department is at all unwilling to establish a working relationship with minority communities. It's a matter of the department looking at the chief to see which direction to go.

CP:What sorts of things have you brought to the rank and file in general as far as this sort of leadership direction? It can't be any secret to you that the culture of the MPD has been publicly scrutinized for a while.

McManus: All I hear is, why can't the Minneapolis department be more like St. Paul's? I hear that all the time. But, I think the department needs to be promoted. There needs to be a champion to say, "Hey, this is the perception that's fueled by a few." Certainly the vast majority in the department are good officers, and good people and want to do the right thing. And they will do the right thing with the right direction.

CP:Without naming names, there are a few bad apples, who the public knows are bad apples, who are still on the force, and that's where this perception comes from. There is no denying the fact that some officers who have been in high-profile incidents are still on the force.

McManus: And I guess I can't speak to why they are. Maybe it's an arbitrator giving them their jobs back, maybe they were never fired to begin with. But [long pause] I can't remedy that. I can't remedy history. My position is pretty clear on where I'm coming from and the direction I want to go in as far as the type of department we want to have and the reputation we want our department to have.

CP:To switch gears a little bit: One of the things I came across that was notable during your career in D.C. was you dealing with some protestors [during the International Monetary Fund meetings in April 2000] out there. Some people praised the way you handled it, some questioned the way you handled it. We had, in the summer of 2000, a similar situation here that I think the police did not handle very well. What sorts of strategies do you have when you're dealing with these kinds of protests? The WTO protest in Seattle is obviously an example of something going wrong, or maybe you don't think it was wrong...

McManus: No, it was.

CP:On a smaller scale here, it went wrong in a lot of ways. Minneapolis is the kind of city that is probably going to have situations like this. How do you deal with them?

McManus: For example, when I was in D.C., I'm standing on the corner of 23rd and Pennsylvania Avenue, and it's got to be 5:30, 6 o'clock on a Sunday morning. This is the day that the demonstrations were really going pick up. This is the day the demonstrators said they were going take over the city. So I'm standing on the corner and it's kinda drizzly and foggy. You couldn't see very far down the street. It wasn't quite light, and it wasn't quite dark, there's a haze.

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