Weathering the Storm

MPD chief William McManus on his early tenure

CP: Do you regret having left Dayton the way you did? There were an awful lot of sour grapes coming from there.

McManus: I consider that a compliment. They were mad because I was leaving. The union was happy to see me go, but nobody else was. So the concerns about me leaving were that I hadn't been there long enough--that I was doing a good job.

CP: There were parallels that were drawn. You had a similar situation [coming to Minneapolis] with a female deputy chief like when you first got on the job at Dayton...

The outsider: Chief McManus's no-nonsense approach has sparked controversies
Marie Foss
The outsider: Chief McManus's no-nonsense approach has sparked controversies

McManus: It really wasn't similar. Before I went into Dayton, I was told by the city manager, you can keep all your command staff, or bring in a whole new staff. There was the latitude to do that. So after having been there for six months, I had identified two individuals, one male and one happened to be female, that I did not want around anymore.

CP: Why is that?

McManus: I needed some new energy, some new perspectives. There was too much baggage.

CP: Is that part of what you found here? Certainly there's been a lot of personnel changes and transfers.

McManus: I don't want to get into personnel issues, but two positions were acting positions. Only one was permanent. I was only taking advantage of latitude that had been given to me. The last set of promotions, there were two females that were promoted, out of four.

CP: Reading through the testimony that came out of the BCA investigation, it's not hard to infer that some of these promotions and shakeups might have come out of that suspension and investigation. Is that a fair assessment?

McManus: It's an assessment. I wouldn't say it's fair. There were statements given to the BCA that were attributed to me, and I haven't commented on them. At least not yet. Again, I don't want to get into personnel issues, but, I don't make any of these moves without consulting command staff, and I ask for recommendations before made any of those moves.

CP: Certainly there was a question about internal affairs and how the Ngo case was handled in that report. It's easy to see that some people are being moved out of internal affairs and some are being moved in. Some people who were part of that investigation are no longer there.

McManus: That wasn't part of the thought process behind it.

CP: It's amazing to read that BCA report and see all that's in there, and see what the Star Tribune has taken out of it. There are many interesting details in there, concerning several people, but they seemed to pick up mostly on the things that concerned your role and actions. Is that frustrating?

McManus: Yes, very.

CP: Where does that come from?

McManus: Off the top of my head, it comes from really not knowing me.

CP: So far as the relationship between certain cops and certain reporters is concerned, it can be a leaky department. What can you do about that?

McManus: Well, it can. And the only thing you can do about that is, you've got to keep your circle small. The smaller the better. Look, if there's some stuff going on, I'm going to be the first to come out and say it. I've always said, don't judge a department based on mistakes. Judge it based on how those mistakes were handled.

CP: That might be an even harsher assessment in some cases. The Civilian Review Authority [an independent board that investigates complaints of police misconduct] is up and running again. At the same time, you're taking the position that investigations will be internal. And you're not going to the usual outside agencies, like Hennepin County, for misconduct investigations. How seriously do you take the CRA? Is it necessary?

McManus: Civilian review boards are normally the result of fallout a department will experience when it is unable or unwilling to investigate itself. I believe we are able to investigate ourselves. The long-term goal as far as I'm concerned is to some point phase out the CRA.

Five years down the road, eight years down the road, the hope would be that the public does have enough confidence in the police department to investigate ourselves. I come from departments where we never sent anything out to be investigated. I think in this department, given the leadership of the command staff, we have that ability. And if we don't, we'll fix the problems, or I'll say I was wrong.

The quality of the Hennepin County Sheriff's department has been great. But I don't think even St. Paul does outside investigations. If we don't have that integrity, we should just pack up and go home.

CP: You have made a number of moves that might be sensitive on the job. How are you with the rank and file? Are you going to roll calls? How involved are you with the day-to-day operations?

McManus: I'm not as involved as I want to be, or as I will be. I haven't had a fraction of the time it takes to get a handle on this. You come into a department with a few, and you can count them on one hand, priorities. You really have to focus on those priorities, unless you want to get sidetracked by dozens and dozens of things that come flying your way at 100 miles an hour every day.

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