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.

Others, like Bethel, also believe that the chief's image problem in the media simply has to do with the way things are done around here. "All of it is coming from the white power structure," Bethel argues. "They're finding out he has backing from the community."

And there's a final theory. McManus bristles when any information gets out to the media before he knows about it, and he immediately sought to tighten up the leaks coming out of the department. (He also has been sensitive about some of the more benign coverage of him.) By making certain personnel changes, McManus has taken some of the media's best sources out of the loop. There is a bit of a paradox here: McManus claims to want a department that's more open, but he's also doing his best to control the flow of information out of the department.

Bethel says the media's treatment of McManus doesn't change the way he's seen in communities of color. "There's a big reason there hasn't been another Jordan," Bethel says, referring to a riot two years ago after an MPD bullet struck a black boy. "There's gang members out there that would back him."

Raoul Benavides


Today, eight months into the job, McManus says there were more skeletons in the MPD's closet than he had guessed. "I didn't come in here to be a reformer or a change agent," he says. "That might have been part of it, but it was not the overall mandate." Nevertheless, he says, he saw much in the department that desperately needed addressing and correcting.

Bethel, Clark, and others note that the chief has made efforts to introduce himself or make personal phone calls on a regular basis. He's out there. "I think McManus is interested in the truth," says Jill Clark. "Olson hid in his office. One never got the impression that he wanted to know the truth."

Whereas Olson was politically and even personally beholden to Sharon Sayles Belton and the city's 13 council members, hardly anyone believes that McManus will play political lapdog. Olson, too, expressed a desire to free up SAFE officers for patrol duty, but he never did it, bowing in the end to pressure from neighborhoods and council members. When McManus reassigned the neighborhood cops to the North Side this summer, he did so without much consultation, and many ward leaders cried foul.

Bethel and Clark agree that the police union is another big obstacle for the chief. (McManus says he speaks regularly to Sgt. John Delmonico, head of the Federation of Minneapolis Police Officers, who was less than welcoming when McManus came to town.) "He's got the charisma to win them over," Bethel says. "They're beginning to take him seriously." But he still has doubts about McManus's political fate: "I wouldn't be that optimistic because the institution has been so sick for so long."

Bethel points to the fact that all council members and the mayor are up for reelection next year. McManus is very much Rybak's chief, but Minneapolis's weak- mayor system makes the City Council far more powerful. It's not clear what a shake-up on the council or in the mayor's office would mean for McManus.

"The verdict is still out, and much of it depends on the elections next year," Bethel says. "Police chiefs come and go, but the politics of the city are entrenched. Politics aren't going to change because of McManus."

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