Mpls. police Chief Tim Dolan to retire

Dolan’s retirement may impact the future of the Civilian Police Review Authority.

by Nick Sudheimer


Minneapolis police Chief Tim Dolan announced Wednesday that he won’t seek a third term as chief and will retire at the end of 2012 after 29 years with the department.

The announcement comes at a time when violent crime statistics in the city are falling, but criticism of Dolan’s ability to internally regulate his department lingers.

After taking over in 2006 as interim chief, violent crime in Minneapolis continued to fall sharply, allowing the city to distance itself from the “Murderapolis” nickname given to it after it saw high crime rates in the mid- to late-1990s.

The number of reported homicides fell from 57 in 2006 to 37 in 2011.

City Council members and Mayor R.T. Rybak praised Dolan for his innovative and effective work decreasing crime.

“The city is a safer place because of Chief Dolan’s excellent service,” City Councilman Don Samuels, who chairs the city’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee, said in a statement.

Still, some city officials and citizens have expressed concerns about Dolan’s ability to regulate his department.

The Civilian Police Review Authority, a citizen group that oversees complaints about police misconduct, criticized what it saw as Dolan’s lack of disciplinary action against officers.

“The MPD under Chief Dolan has not made discipline of officer misconduct a priority, and the CRA Board has no confidence that Chief Dolan and the MPD command staff will issue discipline on sustained allegations of misconduct going forward,” said the CRA’s 2011 performance review of Dolan.

Between 2007 — Dolan’s first full year as chief — and 2010, Dolan acted on only 13 out of 64 disciplinary recommendations from the CRA.

Dolan previously told the Minnesota Daily that the current structure processes complaints too slowly, and he doesn’t act on as many recommendations because they aren’t relevant by the time he sees them.

“I think having civilian oversight of officers is very important, and we don’t want to lose that. We just want it to be fair,” Dolan said. “And fair means it needs to be timely, and the discipline needs to be appropriate.”

At a meeting with Occupy Minneapolis protesters, Rybak said Dolan had fired more officers over complaints than any other police chief.

The tense relationship between the CRA and the police department hasn’t gone unnoticed.

State legislators passed a law backed by the Minneapolis Police Federation in early April that significantly reduced the CRA’s power by prohibiting the Minneapolis CRA from issuing “findings of fact about police complaints,” which would be counted on a police officer’s records.

The bill received bipartisan support and was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Under the law, which goes into effect Aug. 1, civilian review boards can still make nonbinding recommendations to the chief.

City Councilman Cam Gordon said he was disappointed by the bill’s passage, especially in light of the Minneapolis Police Department’s recent run-in with Occupy Minneapolis protesters.

“Civilian oversight plays an important role in regulating the police force and, unfortunately, I think the city now needs to re-evaluate the role of the CRA,” Gordon said.

City officials, including Dolan, have also been working on ways to improve the effectiveness of the CRA.

The plan would replace the 11-member Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority, which is independent of the police department, with a 14-member Police Conduct Oversight Commission made of both civilians and police officers.

The new commission is intended to make the complaint process faster and more effective.

Vernon Wetternach, acting chair of the CRA, said it will continue to address complaints of police officer misconduct, but the CRA has formed a committee to review the city’s restructuring plan in the meantime.

The committee will review the plan and make recommendations to Velma Korbel — the director of the Department of Civil Rights — and the City Council, Wetternach said.

Wetternach praised Dolan’s effective work and said any effect his retirement will have on the CRA will depend on who Rybak proposes to replace him.

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”