How's He Doing?

In just eight months, chief Bill McManus has alienated the media, the pols, and the MPD rank and file. He must be doing something right.

"I keep hearing it's a new day at IA, and hope that's right, but I don't think there's enough information yet," Clark continues. "It's tough to investigate investigators. There's got to be real scrutiny if he wants to change things there. It often was the case that the first reaction from the MPD in misconduct was, 'Quick, how do we cover it up?'"

So far, McManus has greatly increased the scope of Internal Affairs. He moved personnel and expanded the number of officers assigned there from three to eight. "My main concern was who's actually running the IA unit," McManus says. He has also made other moves. This summer, he moved the department's SAFE officers-- neighborhood cops who act as liaisons between the MPD and the community--to patrol on the North Side. He has also called for longer logs from officers when they finish their shifts. Protocol for cops when answering a relatively uneventful call, for instance, was to dash off a phrase or two about the incident. Now, McManus has asked for fuller reports that generally run around a paragraph or two.

All of this marks two traits of McManus as chief. He wants the department to be more professional and more responsive. And he wants complete control over what happens at the MPD and how it is portrayed to the public.

 

This summer, McManus made a sweeping gesture toward transparency. For the first time since they began in 1997, the MPD's CODE FOR meetings were opened to the public. Every Thursday in the council chambers at City Hall, precinct commanders brief the department's top brass on the week's criminal activity around the city. Inspectors from each of the city's five precincts give PowerPoint presentations that have map overlays of shots fired, burglaries, and rapes. There are anecdotes of car chases and arson activity.

Under John Laux and Robert Olson, the two previous chiefs, this sort of information was nearly impossible to get from the department. That it's discussed publicly by members of the force is not only remarkable but good public relations: The MPD comes off looking engaged and sensitive to the differing needs in various parts of town. The meetings are a revelation about the trivialities and dangers of regular police work.

But they are also notable for what they say about McManus's managerial style. He's been pegged by one cop as a "guy who likes information," but also one willing to delegate authority to officers he views as "mini-chiefs." At one meeting last month, about 30 officers and onlookers (including, for a time, the mayor) sat in the gallery of the chambers. McManus and four other top administrators presided from chairs usually reserved for council members.

McManus did not run the meeting; that duty fell to Deputy Chief Tim Dolan, a veteran of the force who was on the early list of candidates to replace Olson. Dolan called each precinct commander to the front to give a report. McManus rarely spoke up. But when he did, it was to prod his command staff. He stopped Fourth Precinct Inspector Don Banham's report at one point: "What's your robbery closure rate to date?"

Banham responded that he didn't have the numbers off the top of his head.

"Precinct commanders need to keep their fingers on things like that," McManus continued, without any air of censure, adding that at any time he might want a "case-management review." Such pop quizzes came intermittently from McManus.

Aside from normal management concerns, McManus had good reason to press Banham and some of the other commanders and officers who spoke. Banham was new to his position. So was Dolan, who had previously been the Fourth Precinct Inspector under Olson. Val Wurster, who was new to leading the Second Precinct, was also the beneficiary of a McManus promotion.

In fact, nearly everyone in the room was there because McManus had put them in positions that required them to be there. It became evident that the department's leaders and top brass were very much a part of Team McManus. The chief has made it clear that he wants to surround himself with people he can trust. He had done the same thing in Dayton.

The management shake-up launched by McManus last spring predictably led to dissent and grumbling in the ranks: McManus was playing favorites. But then again, promotions always have that effect, especially in a department that has been, as attorney Clark puts it, "run by the same bullies for years."

Almost all of McManus's promotions have involved persons of color or women. The MPD has long had difficulty recruiting and hiring minority officers, and the recent budget cuts meant that a number of younger officers were laid off, many of them women or nonwhites. But at the CODE FOR meeting, a majority of the officers in attendance were African American. In fact, of the three deputy chiefs and five precinct commanders currently under McManus's command, only three are white males. McManus has made the promotions in top positions--or in some instances, made temporary ones permanent--in seven cases. Similarly, he has surrounded himself with Latino and black officers in the chief's office and aide positions. (One veteran cop surmises that minority officers will also play prominent roles in the Office of Professional Standards, in part "to be groomed for advancement.")

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