Rybak's lawful assembly

Hizzoner picks police chief panel

The mayor of Minneapolis has unveiled his plan in the search for a new police chief. According to a press release from R.T. Rybak's office, citizens are encouraged to offer input via a survey on the city's web site and the city's "311" phone line.

The plan also reveals some of Rybak's "principles" in selecting a chief, including such radical ideas that the future chief must be a "strong leader" who will "keep Minneapolis safe."

And there is an advisory committee made up of elected officials and community activists. The list is more notable for who's not on it.

For instance, none of the usual rabble rousers have been invited to participate--folks like Spike Moss, Ron Edwards or even Urban League president Clarence Hightower. Some might see this as an indication that Rybak will not kowtow to grandstanders and agitators, but it's also a sign that the mayor won't involve some of the people who have been most intimate with police-community issues over the years.

(The press release notes that Rybak will make his selection sometime after Labor Day.)

In fact, the list doesn't include a single member of the Police Community Relations Council, the group of cops and citizens that meets regularly as a result of a federal mediation agreement brokered by the Department of Justice two-and-a-half years ago. That's a striking omission on the mayor's part; those meetings have fostered a consistent, if protracted, dialogue between police and community leaders.

"It seems to be business as usual," notes PCRC member Mark Anderson, saying the issue came up in this morning's PCRC meeting. "Apparently [Rybak] called co-chair Bill Means and said he would be in touch on an informational basis. But you're ignoring enormous expertise--on both sides. The police union needs to be involved in this too."

Jeremy Hanson, Rybak's spokesman, says the committee was picked by Rybak and is a "diverse group." Hanson adds that "the advisory committee is one of the tools" the mayor will use in his search, pointing out the online survey and the phone line.

Who is on the 12-person list? Notables include state Senator Linda Higgins, state Rep. Frank Hornstein, Minneapolis school board member Peggy Flanagan, and City Council member Don Samuels. There's also the Rev. Al Gallmon, former head of the Minneapolis NAACP, Roberta Englund of the Folwell/Webber-Camden Neighborhood Organization and Duo Lee of the Southeast Asian Community Council.

Not exactly a Rainbow Coalition, but as a nod to whatever might be called diversity, it's sufficient. It just happens to exclude a number of people who have been on the front lines in recent years. And, as Mark Anderson notes, the PCRC springs from a "a signed federal agreement that was passed by the City Council. It's a serious process. It didn't come out of nowhere." Then again, Anderson also points out that Rybak has been to a grand total of three PCRC meetings.

Hanson, speaking for the mayor, says, "The PCRC will play an important role" in the search and that "the mayor does value" the group. Still, it looks like a snub. When asked why the mayor didn't simply include one PCRC member, Hanson offers, "I don't know what else to tell you," and that the advisory committee is "just one piece" of the process: "There's nothing preventing the co-chairs of the PCRC from calling him up and offering input."

One of Rybak's "principles" in a chief is one who "builds partnerships with the community," but the mayor, it would seem, is excluding a notable faction of that community at the start.

"The mayor has these other relationships in the community based on political considerations," Anderson concludes. "They're systematically excluding the PCRC, and we're the ones who really care about this stuff."