Splitsville?

When R.T. Rybak brought Bill McManus to town to head the MPD, both men talked big about reforming the troubled department. But when the chief ran into political resistance, some say, the mayor blinked. Now their relationship has hit the skids, and the fut

If Rybak was pure prep school in look and demeanor, McManus looked like pure street by comparison. The contrast might have made them a good political tag team, but for practical purposes it may have heightened antagonism instead. "Rybak is constantly tagging along with the chief to community meetings, trying to connect," notes one Minneapolis officer. "But he's always screwing up by giving them some white-guy shit. He just doesn't get it."

Mark Anderson, a member of the Police Community Relations Council, sees Rybak as "a nice person," but one who is blind to some of his own shortcomings. "The difference—and it is a disconnect—between him and the chief is very personal," Anderson offers. "McManus is very 'get-things-done,' very practical. The mayor is a politician in the pejorative sense. He spins things and tells people what they want to hear. He is a person who has not suffered. In the eyes of many, he doesn't [know] that reality. He has an insensitivity to the enormous obstacles in communities of color."

Farheen Hakeem, a local Green who challenged Rybak and McLaughlin in last year's mayoral primary, echoes Anderson's sentiments. "R.T., at the end of the day, might be a very nice guy, but he hasn't had an honest discussion about race the entire time he's been in office," she says, adding that she believes Rybak "doesn't even know what institutional racism is. All he cares about is being mayor and serving wards where white people live, because they're the ones who vote. He doesn't care about poor people and people of color unless there's a camera around.

"I got the sense he was afraid to go out door-knocking in some parts of the city," Hakeem continues, "driving around black neighborhoods in his little Prius, asking people to vote for him."

V.

It's not just the relationship between the mayor and the police that's changed. More than one onlooker thinks McManus has taken a deliberately lower profile in the past year. "Around the spring [of 2005]," says Deep Blue, "things were coming at the chief, and nobody was defending him. Something happened then, and there's been a pulling back by him ever since. I think he just got sick of the game."

Ron Edwards says he believes McManus "is suffering from a small level of depression, because I don't think he had a clue that any of this was coming. The mayor likes to watch him squirm a little bit, and that allows [Rybak] to control the situation."

Rybak, for his part, still maintains that there's no problem at all between McManus and himself, calling reports of discord between them "chat-room discussion fantasy." "There has not been a single philosophical difference between the chief and I on public safety," the mayor tells CP, adding that he's also happy with many of the administrative moves the chief has made. "The chief and I work extraordinarily well together," he continues. "We share the same values on where the department needs to go, and all of this has nothing to do with how I feel about the chief."

Asked to respond to some of the comments of sources who claim otherwise, Rybak allows that "not everything he's done has been perfect, and I'm sure not everything I've done has been perfect to him. But most of this talk is just a lot of fantasy." A little later, though, Rybak phones back and adds: "I was talking about the ideas and chatter out there being groundless. But I don't want to say that we haven't had moments of difficulty. There have been stresses on our relationship. In the midst of a political campaign, when I was having bogus charges of public safety thrown at me every day, or over the Ngo situation when things exploded politically—we get stretched and stressed."

But Rybak insists that by declining to address McManus's reappointment, he's just trying to assure that the two of them can focus on getting some substantive work done in early 2006. "No matter who the chief was," Rybak claims flatly, "I would not be talking about confirmation at this point by any means."

Police union head John Delmonico calls Rybak's noncommittal stance toward McManus "a mystery" and "the $64,000 question." "He put all this political backing into this guy, which I agree with overwhelmingly now," Delmonico notes. "And I have to ask, 'What has McManus done that would make you not reappoint him?'"

"It's imperative that we keep McManus on board to reduce crime in these neighborhoods," says PCRC head Ian Bethel. "The mayor needs to relax his power over the chief of police." Roberta Englund, who heads the Folwell Neighborhood Association, puts a finer point on it. "If this is about control and micromanagement," Englund says of the clash, "Rybak better step back and leave it to someone who knows what he's doing." She calls McManus "one of the best chiefs in the country" and worries that "any strides we've made in public safety up here are off the table if he leaves."

Bethel argues there's more to the political tensions in play than competing visions of how to run a police department. In his words, there is a fairly widespread political sentiment in some quarters of the city that McManus's leadership of the MPD has resulted in "too many black people at the table now." Certainly no one at City Hall is willing to put it that way. The more typical complaint around the City Council's third-floor offices is that McManus is too remote and too unaccountable.

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