Police chief letter asks officers to call

ST. PAUL (AP) — St. Paul Police Chief William Finney apologized Wednesday for writing a letter that directed police officers to call him before taking “adverse police action” against a former classmate.
“Wasn’t that a dumb thing to do? Now that I think about it, kind of a really dumb thing to do,” Finney said.
He said he is sorry that the letter embarrassed the city and his department.
But he maintains his intent was good and that he was just trying to help a man who had been good to the department. Finney said Cornelius Brown also had provided police with information about his neighborhood.
The letter, dated Nov. 3, reads in part:
“To: Any Police Officer Having Contact with Mr. Cornelius E. Brown Jr. … Please contact me if he becomes involved in any incident where you feel adverse police action needs to be taken against him. Contact me directly via cellular phone….”
Brown, who is a longtime acquaintance of Finney’s, also is a convicted arsonist who in 1992 tried to burn down a duplex with three people in it because he felt spurned by a woman who lived there, according to Ramsey County District Court records.
The letter on city letterhead has Finney’s city cellular phone number.
“This is the only one I’ve written,” said Finney, who has known Brown for more than 40 years. “This is not to get him (Brown) out of trouble.”
Finney said Brown was involved in a neighborhood dispute. “He thought the police officers didn’t think very well of him, and I says, Well, I’ll give you a letter saying that you’re a decent guy.’ He’s not a criminal.”
The 50-year-old Brown has been a St. Paul police volunteer since 1994.
The chief said the letter for Brown was to avoid misunderstandings between Brown and police. “He’s not a vulnerable adult, but he’s not the most literate person,” Finney said.
Brown said Finney gave him the letter as a courtesy because he is black, a lifelong friend and a neighborhood activist, and lives in a high-crime area.
“A lot of times African-American men are stopped just because they are African-American,” Brown said.
He said he has used the letter at least once, when he was stopped after speeding late at night last month. He said he showed the officer the letter and wasn’t cited.
“I don’t think (the officer) was going to give me a ticket anyway,” Brown said. He said he was only going a few miles over the 30 mph limit.
No officers have called Finney since the letter was written.
Finney said the letter was made public by people trying to embarrass him and possibly hurt his reappointment. Mayor Norm Coleman has said he plans to reappoint Finney this summer.
“This is one that the chief won’t do again,” Coleman said Wednesday.
Police Commander Ross Lundstrom recently complained in letters to Coleman that Finney has used his city cell phone for personal calls and mismanaged department budgets and personnel. The Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department is investigating possible criminal violations.