By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
On Tuesday evening, December 20, the city of Minneapolis anointed 13 new cops during a swearing-in ceremony at the Zurah Shrine Center in south Minneapolis. Those 13 raised the total number of sworn officers on the force to 800—a noteworthy milestone in view of the shrinkage the MPD had faced in recent years owing to state and local budget cuts. It had seen its ranks fall from a high of 930 street cops in 1998 to a low-water mark of 785 at one point in 2005.
The additional cops also counted as partial payment on a campaign pledge Rybak had made during his reelection battle against Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin. From the first mayoral debate back in February onward, McLaughlin hammered Rybak on public safety issues and won the emphatic endorsement of the police union, the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. By late June, a much-publicized uptick in local murders was giving the charges traction. Rybak, in response, essentially promised more cops now and more cops later, a pledge that included the December 2005 class of 13 and another 60 officers penciled into the 2006 budget.
On its face, it looked like a win-win situation for Rybak and the police chief he appointed in December 2003, Bill McManus—except for one thing: McManus had not wanted job offers to go out to this group in the first place. In an internal MPD e-mail exchange obtained by City Pages, Deputy Chief Don Harris wrote to McManus and other MPD and city officials on September 2, "We just completed the final step in the hiring process for the next class. Final job offers have or will be given to 14 people total." That note went out around noon. At nine o'clock that night, McManus replied: "Gents—I have some concerns with this list. Let's talk before any offers go out. Thanks."
The next e-mail in the group thread is dated October 19, some six weeks later. In it, someone in human resources at the MPD named Bill Champa wrote, "That night, Chief McManus expressed concerns with the diversity of the list.... Final job offers had already gone out."
McManus apparently did not like the fact that the list of hires consisted of one African American, one Latino, one woman, and 11 white men (one of whom eventually dropped out). The chief had promises of his own to keep: Part of the reason he had been hired in the first place was to mend the MPD's terrible reputation in local minority communities, and to stem the tide of police misconduct complaints, lawsuits, and bad press. Toward that end, McManus had reshuffled the department brass to put more African American cops in positions of power and visibility, and he had pledged more officers of color on the street too. McManus refuses to discuss the hiring flap in detail, but concedes that "everyone knows I had an issue with the list." Choosing his words deliberately, he goes on to add that "the mayor didn't give the final directive." Rybak likewise denies forcing the hires.
A lot of people don't buy it. "The mayor made the hires, that's my position," says Ron Edwards, a community activist and longtime critic of the MPD who serves on the Police Community Relations Council, echoing a feeling shared by many observers in the community and the police department. "McManus didn't have nothin' to do with those hires."
One thing that nearly everyone agrees on, however, is that the relationship between the mayor and his most celebrated appointee has hit the rocks. The whispers around City Hall started in earnest during campaign season, when the two were rarely seen together. They got louder when the rift was first mentioned publicly, in a December 12 Star Tribune story that suggested Rybak might not reappoint McManus after his contract expires next year. Both men downplay any ill will between them, but extensive interviews with sources close to the situation—in city government, the MPD, and the community—paint a very different picture.
These sources speak of a growing and sometimes heated rift between the two. As to its origins, they point to differences of personality, background, management style, and priorities, but taken together their accounts trace the story of a mayor who has backed away from the political demands of supporting his reformer police chief, and a chief who has in turn pulled back from his political patron and started to rethink his options. Edwards summarizes the current standoff this way: "You have two men pouting."
In the words of Ian Bethel, a south Minneapolis minister who chairs the Police Community Relations Council, "I think there's an element surrounding McManus in Minneapolis politics saying, 'Hey, we didn't want you to go that far.'" Bethel says that group includes the mayor. "You'd have to go in the backroom with both of them to find out what went wrong," he continues. "But I do think that there was an element of how the mayor sold the job to the chief. McManus played up certain attributes that he had to get the job, naturally. The mayor liked those things—diversity, community [relations], whatnot—and let him know that he'd be able to do this thing when he got in the job. But the chief found different things when he came to town. I think there's a feeling on the chief's side that expectations have not been met."