Hennepin County Sheriff weighs in on Metro Gang Strike Force

In a Q & A with MinnPost scribe/ex-CPer G.R. Anderson Jr., Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek discusses the Metro Gang Strike Force. The recently disbanded unit's in-house accounting was so shoddy, officers were unable to account for $18,000 and more than a dozen cars they'd seized as evidence.

In '97, while serving as a state representive, Stanek helped write the legislation that made the Strike Force possible. Stanek's future cross-river counterpart--Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher--had lobbied for the Strike Force's creation and whose department would go on to act as the unit's "fiscal agent."

MinnPost: Were you satisfied at the time that it was a good piece of lawmaking?

Stanek: No, I thought it needed more structure.

Stanek's line is telling. It's no secret among law enforcement circles that Stanek and Fletcher regard one another with mutual mistrust, even disdain. In 2004, Stanek--then the state's Public Safety Commissioner--recommended merging the Metro Gang Strike Force with the Minnesota Drug Task Force. The move would have transferred authority/oversight from Fletcher's department over to Stanek. Or at least that's how Fletcher saw it.

The move infuriated Fletcher, according to sources we spoke with while reporting a profile on Fletcher. (When asked about his relationship with his Hennepin County doppelganger, Fletcher kept things diplomatic "You'd have to ask Stanek," he said).

The Strike Force was led by Ron Ryan, a friend of Fletcher from their days in the St. Paul Police Department. In another revealing exchange, Stanek refused to rule out the possibility of criminality on the part of Ryan.

MinnPost: I've known Commander Ryan over the years, and he strikes me as an ethical and straightforward cop, kind of a cop's cop. I'm surprised that a lot of this appears to have been going on underneath him.

Stanek: There's mismanagement, there's malfeasance and there's criminal. At the very least, I think people agree there was lack of managerial oversight. The other two? The jury's still out, though both investigations are under way, and it will ferret out or root out what was or wasn't.