What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to baird.helgeson@startribune.com.

U police chief to retire next year

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: October 24, 2014 - 4:48 PM

University of Minnesota Police Chief Greg Hestness will retire next spring after 11 years on the job.

Hestness, who also serves as the university’s assistant vice president for public safety, began his tenure in 2003, after serving with the Minneapolis Police Department for 28 years, eventually rising to the rank of deputy chief. He plans to retire next June, U officials said.

A Minneapolis native, he received his bachelor and master’s from the U and master’s from St. Mary's University. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy, the Senior Management Institute for Police and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Executive Development Institute, an online biography said.

In a statement, university Vice President Pamela Wheelock thanked Hestness for his years of service.

The University community has enjoyed a steady drop in on-campus crimes through the past decade and has benefited greatly from Greg's leadership through major changes including the return of Gopher football to campus, the opening of the Green Line LRT, large events too numerous to mention, and tremendous growth both on and off campus. 

Hestness also drew praise from Wheelock for his handling of a string of brazen and violent crimes on campus last year, when he took the unusual step of asking the city to direct additional officers to the area.

She added that U officials will “begin very soon the process” of hiring a new chief.

911 wait times in Mpls. expected to drop

Posted by: Erin Golden under Politics and government, Public safety Updated: October 24, 2014 - 3:43 PM

Wait times for 911 calls in Minneapolis should drop next year with the addition of four new dispatchers and new call processing software, the city’s director of emergency communications said Friday.

Heather Hunt, who earlier this year defended her department’s performance following reports of understaffing and significant delays in answering calls, said the city’s 911 system is “in a mode of continuous improvement and we still have much work to do.” In a meeting with a City Council budget subcommittee, Hunt said the additional spending proposed in Mayor Betsy Hodges budget will allow the department to make a few critical upgrades.

The proposal calls for the 911 budget to grow by more than 10 percent, to $9.6 million. In addition to four new dispatchers, the budget bump includes $150,000 of general fund money for a new call processing system and another $135,000 for phone upgrades. 

Hunt said those changes should help the city get closer to meeting a national standard: that calls be answered by 911 operators in 10 seconds or less, at least 90 percent of the time. Right now, the department meets that time standard about 85 percent of the time, though the current system the city uses to track calls doesn’t provide exact statistics. 

A staffing study this year suggested that 911 should add at least six more employees to meet national standards, but Hunt said the improvements to the software and phones should make the operation more efficient — which could mean that four additional employees will be enough.

The new phone system will link Minneapolis’ 911 operations with other emergency call centers in the area, while the new software will help dispatchers filter calls more quickly by guiding them through sets of questions.

“The benefit of this software is all callers will receive a standard level of care and questions won’t fall through the cracks,” Hunt said. 

The software upgrade should be in place sometime in the second half of 2015. By late next year, Hunt said, the city should be able to get a more precise idea of how close it is to meeting the national standard.

Meanwhile, a disagreement between 911 workers and the city over a new push to cross-train employees for multiple duties is headed toward arbitration. Hunt told the council she couldn’t comment further on the issue.

Top MPD official a finalist for police chief job in Washington state

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: October 23, 2014 - 7:59 PM
Matthew Clark, the Minneapolis Police Department’s second in command who oversees the day-to-day operations, is a finalist for the police chief job in Bellevue, Wash..

Clark, who was appointed assistant chief by Chief Janeé Harteau shortly after she took the job in 2012, is scheduled to meet tonight with community members and city staff in the Seattle suburb. He is one of five finalists to head the 178-officer department, which polices a city of nearly 130,000.

The other short-list candidates are: Deputy Chief Jim Jolliffe, of the Bellevue Police Department; Chief Mitch McCann, of the Simi Valley (Calif.) Police Department; Assistant Chief Nicholas Metz, of the Seattle Police Department; and Assistant Chief Raul Munguia, of the Austin Police Department.

Bellevue spokeswoman Emily Christensen said the finalists, who were first targeted by a search firm, will go through a series of interviews today and tomorrow before a final decision is made. The city hopes to have a new chief on board by early next year, she said.

A former volunteer firefighter, Clark joined the department in 1993 and rose through the ranks, making sergeant in 1999 and then lieutenant in 2007, according to an online biography. At the time of his appointment, he commanded the 5th Precinct in southwest Minneapolis.

The online profile states that his career accomplishments include developing the department’s goal and performance program and managing the chief’s Citizen’s Advisory Council, aimed at rebuilding trust with the community. Clark earned his bachelor's degree in law enforcement and public administration at Minnesota State University-Mankato and master's in public administration and human services from Concordia University in St. Paul.

If he is offered and accepts the Bellevue job, Clark would become the second command level officer to step down in the last year, joining Eddie Frizell, who took a leave of absence from his position as deputy chief in order to run for Hennepin County sheriff.

Parents at Hmong International seek principal, more stability

Posted by: Alejandra Matos under People and neighborhoods, Politics and government Updated: October 23, 2014 - 4:33 PM


Parents at Hmong International Academy are demanding that the Minneapolis school district appoint a permanent principal that will stay for more than a year.

About a dozen parents marched a mile from the school to confront school leaders at the district headquarters.

They say they have had a new principal every year for several years now and want permanent leadership.

The lack of leadership represents a lack of interest by district officials to truly address the needs of the Hmong Community, parents said.

"Parents feel if there is always a change, it means the goals change, so they don't feel they are receiving the right support from teachers and the district," Mailor Vang said.

Once at the district headquarters, the district's top administrators, including chief executive officer Michael Goar, met with the group of parents for nearly two hours.

They demanded the district give the school a permanent principal and assistant principal who both speak Hmong and understand the culture. 

But one parent, who is African American, walked out, saying the school needs a strong leader, not just a culturally competent leader.

Goar said he wants to hear from more parents at the school. He committed to personally attending the next community engagement meeting in early November.

The demand to speak to Goar came after associate superintendent Laura Cavender left a school meeting 20 minutes after it started Thursday night.

The community was outraged, saying she disrespected the families, and questioned her commitment to the school.

One parent said he took unpaid leave from work to speak to Cavender, according to notes from the meeting.

"I sacrificed $700 worth of pay. She insulted me personally," the parent said.

Cavender and other district leaders apologized, saying it the early departure was a misunderstanding. Cavender said she did not know the meeting was called to engage with her.

"My heart is here and I'm here to do the work," she said.

Man indicted on murder charges in July 4th weekend shooting at party

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: October 23, 2014 - 3:26 PM

A 22-year-old Minneapolis man has been indicted by a grand jury on first-degree murder charges in connection with the shooting death of one woman and the wounding of another over the July 4th weekend, prosecutors said.

Ryan Jambone Pettis was charged with first-degree premeditated murder and attempted first-degree murder in an indictment returned by a grand jury last week. Pettis is accused of fatally shooting Francesca Desandre, 24, on the morning of July 5 on the front steps of her home, moments after authorities say he shot another woman.

Another man, Marco Gresham, of Minneapolis, remains in custody on an attempted murder charge in connection with the same shooting, police said.

Authorities say that earlier that night, Pettis shot a female party goer at a house party on the 2600 block of 3rd Street N. Desandre was shot as she fled for cover after hearing the gunshots, police said

The other victim, identified in the initial police report as V.G., was later taken to North Memorial Medical Center, where doctors performed emergency surgery to repair “extensive internal damage.”

Pettis remains in Hennepin County Jail in lieu of $2 million bond.

UPDATE: An earlier verison of this post misstated the charges against the second suspect, Marco Gresham.


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