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

The chief defends his approach. "I run the department, in a lot of ways, like a CEO," he says. "The organization is too big for one person to run. If I were more unsure of myself, I'd be trying to micromanage it." McManus, who has often pointed out that he came from situations in Dayton and D.C. where he only had to report to one person, admits that he underestimated the finer points of politics in Minneapolis, where a weak-mayor system makes the police chief accountable for practical purposes to each of the City Council's 13 members. "I certainly wouldn't let an election dictate what I would or wouldn't do," McManus says cautiously. "It goes back to the knowledge of a political system and culture. I wouldn't look at that as a bad thing, but as something that is a difference that I wasn't expecting.

"I want to stay," he adds. "My wife, she's happy here. And I'm trying to establish a new relationship with a new council."

McManus's uncertain future would also seem to cast doubt on the larger prospect of overhauling the Minneapolis Police Department, and of staying in compliance with the Department of Justice document that established the PCRC in the first place. That agreement, entered into by representatives of the MPD, the city, and the community at large, posed no fewer than 82 items for the MPD to address in revising its practices. Though the accord was negotiated in part by McManus's predecessor, Robert Olson, McManus has earned high marks all around for his efforts to hew closely to the mandates in the agreement. If that process were to break down, critics note, it could set back the minority-hiring efforts undertaken to diversify the 70 percent white-male force.

There are already concerns that the rush to add 60 new cops to the force in 2006 will upset longer-range goals as to the racial diversification of the MPD. Of 91 candidates undergoing background checks as of last month, well over half were white males, leaving the recruit pool below goal for black, Asian, American Indian, Latino, and female candidates. In the words of one veteran cop who asked not to be identified, "Rybak feels mistakenly that the police department can be diversified overnight. Minnesota law requires licensing officers through a two-year law enforcement associates degree program. If you don't have this, you don't work. We have a program geared toward minority candidates called the Community Service Officer program, where the new employee works for the police department and gets paid to go to school to complete this requirement. It's a good program, but it still takes four years or so to get somebody on the street as an officer. And some drop out along the way or are terminated. The process is slow."

Worst case, a serious breakdown in the PCRC's workings could also result in the direct intervention of the DoJ in MPD affairs. The most extreme sanction at the DoJ's disposal would be to place the department into federal "receivership," meaning that the federal government would take over aspects of the management of the Minneapolis Police Department.

The question of the MPD's future, and McManus's place in it, is not entirely in Rybak's hands. McManus is widely thought to be a sought-after commodity in law enforcement circles, and it's conceivable that he might elect to leave without any push from the mayor's office. Council member Lisa Goodman wonders if McManus's scant presence around council chambers means he's already out the door in spirit. "Before we get to the issue of reappointment," she observes, "we might want to find out if the chief actually wants to stay here."

Does McManus think the mayor should reappoint him sooner rather than later? "He could, I guess," the chief says, slowly. "That's just not the way things are done around here." 

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