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

Harteau addresses female officers in Canada

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: September 30, 2014 - 12:01 PM

Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau spoke today at the annual conference of the International Association of Women Police in Winnipeg, Canada.

Harteau gave a talk Tuesday morning on leadership and accountability in 21st century policing, said police spokesman John Elder. The two-day conference was expected to draw more than 600 female police officers from across the world.

Other speakers included law enforcement officials from the U.S., Canada and Ghana, Michaëlle Jean, a former broadcast journalist who served as Canada’s governor general, and Erin Gallagher, a former war crimes investigator with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, according to organizers.

Harteau, the city’s first female police chief, has in recent months spoken at high-profile law enforcement conferences in Milwaukee and Chicago, burnishing her image as a leader on the gun violence issue.

But, back home she has come under increasing criticism for her community-engagement record in the wake of a spate of shootings around Minneapolis.

MPD makes another reality-TV cameo

Posted by: Libor Jany Updated: September 29, 2014 - 7:05 PM

The Minneapolis Police Department is getting back into the reality-TV business.

The department will again be featured on the popular A&E reality police series, “The First 48,” which provides a glimpse into the crucial hours after a murder, during which detectives work feverishly to find the killer before the trail goes cold.

A police news release released last week insisted that the presence of a camera crew “in no way hinders the work of detectives or the cases they compile.”

“While they may be working ‘inside the police tape,’ a protocol and process has been developed to ensure these crews have access while giving investigators the space they need,” the release said. “The MPD’s Homicide Unit, the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office have all been part of the aforementioned discussion.”

Cameramen began shadowing several homicide detectives last Monday, said Scott Seroka, a police spokesman, less than 48 hours after the city recorded its 25th and 26th homicides of the year.

He added that the footage shot by the crews won’t air until the cases they deal with have been cleared in court.

The department was previously featured in the show, now in its 14th season.

In one episode, which first aired on May 15, 2008, followed Sgt. Rick Zimmerman (now lieutenant and the head of the homicide unit) and Sgt. Tammy Diedrich as they searched for the suspect in the killing of a young woman who had been strangled and was found in a partially-burned car. Another time, detectives tried to solve the murder of a man who was killed while meeting with a girl he had met earlier on the bus.

MPD looks to enhance community-based law enforcement efforts

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: September 27, 2014 - 2:25 PM

As part of its continued efforts to beef up its community policing program, the Minneapolis Police Department this week announced a series of forums to better connect with the public.

The three forums, jointly sponsored by the department and the city of Minneapolis, will be held in various locations across the city and focus on moving “us all closer to our collective goal of increasing public safety and public trust,” according to a news release.

The three forums will be held:

  • Oct. 8 at Macedonia Baptist Church, 3801 1st Av. South, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.;
  • Oct. 14 at Church of the Ascension, 1723 Bryant Av. North, from 7:00-8:30 p.m.;
  • Oct. 30 at an yet-to-be-determined location in the Cedar–Riverside neighborhood, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.

Mayor Betsy Hodges on Friday defended the community-engagement record of police Chief Janeé Harteau, who has come under fire after pulling out of a listening session last week in south Minneapolis over security concerns.

But, in a blog posting Friday, the mayor conceded that Harteau could have done a better job explaining why she pulled out of the meeting at the last minute. It was the first time Hodges has publicly acknowledged a misstep by the chief, since Harteau took the job nearly two years ago.

The police department also unveiled "Chat With the Chief," an informal chance for citizens to get some face time with Harteau, the dates and locations for which have not been announced.

Grant will fuel hundreds of bus shelter improvements

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: September 27, 2014 - 4:34 PM

Look out for hundreds of new or improved bus shelters across the Twin Cities next year, thanks in part to a major federal grant awarded to Metro Transit this week.

The $3.26 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration is helping fuel a massive increase in shelter spending next year. Altogether, Metro Transit expects to install 150 new shelters, replace between 75 and 100 shelters and enhance 75 existing shelters with amenities like light, heat and more transit information.

This summer, a Star Tribune analysis revealed that hundreds of high-ridership stops across the Twin Cities had no shelters. That's despite agency guidelines that urban stops with more than 40 riders qualify for a shelter.

The agency currently owns about 800 shelters spread across the Twin Cities. More than 200 of them are located at stops with ridership below ridership qualifications, however.

Altogether, $5.8 million will available for shelters in 2014-2015 -- compared to normal budgets of less than half a million. The remainder of the funding is attributable to a state legislative appropriation, Green Line light rail funds, another federal grant and Metro Transit matching funds.

Many of the new shelters will be placed in the Metropolitan Council's "racially concentrated areas of poverty." These are areas where more than 50 percent of residents are people of color, and more than 40 percent of the residents are poor.

Above: An approximate map of Minneapolis bus stops where ridership exceeds 40 boardings, but no shelter is present.

Before receiving the grant, Metro Transit was planning to install a number of new shelters along Fremont and Penn Aves. in north Minneapolis -- two of the highest ridership corridors with very few shelters. Other Minneapolis targets included Franklin Ave. and Lake Street. See graphic below.

Agency spokesman Drew Kerr said they are still determining where the new federal funds will be allocated.

"We're going to now turn around and come up with a plan that allows us to engage with the community and determine what they would like to see us do with that," Kerr said. "And also do a more thorough evaluation of the sites that we have identified as possible locations for new shelters."

Metropolitan Council Member Adam Duininck, who represents part of Minneapolis, said he’d like to see the money targeted toward areas that have seen disinvestment or where shelters have not kept up with ridership. That includes some of the highest ridership corridors in north and south Minneapolis, he said.

He added that more thought should be given to signage as well.

“At [a recent transit conference], it … came up that Minneapolis and St. Paul have a system that isn’t as well-signed and well-advertised as a lot of other systems around the country,” Duininck said. “Since we’ve always been in a resource-scarce environment, now that we have some extra revenue to think about what we do with it, I think it’s just a good strategic use of the money.”

A number of factors can limit the placement of new shelters, including sidewalk space and the topography of the street. Building overhangs serve as improved shelters for some stops downtown.

Many of the replacements are likely going to be aimed at the 153 CBS Outdoor shelters recently inherited by Metro Transit. Some have complained that those shelters in particular are poorly maintained, and data shows that their placement often does not align with ridership.

Below: Proposed shelter locations from an August 14 Metropolitan Council report, coupled with outlines of the racially concentrated areas of poverty.

Shelters Proposed

State raids Community Action of Minneapolis; employees laid off

Posted by: Alejandra Matos under Politics and government, Public records Updated: September 26, 2014 - 11:59 AM

Community Action of Minneapolis laid off its employees and is no longer accepting energy assistance applications after state officials raided its offices Friday morning.

About a dozen Department of Commerce and Department of Human Services officials, including its lead auditor, showed up as the nonprofit organization was opening its doors, warrant in hand, to obtain all of the organization's financial records.

The Star Tribune first reported Sunday that a new state audit concluded that leaders of the organization misspent more than $800,000 on trips, golf, spa visits and even a personal car loan for its chief executive.

Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said these practices contributed to poor outcomes for the agency’s clients.

“Our first priority must be to ensure that low-income people in Minneapolis and other parts of Hennepin County are getting the help they need,” Jesson said. “The state’s action will make sure these Minnesotans have services that will help their families improve their lives and ensure basic needs are met, especially with the cold winter months around the corner.”

Gov. Mark Dayton supported the action by the two agencies.

“The governor believes the Departments of Commerce and Human Services are acting properly," said Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson.

The state immediately ended all contracts with the organization and vowed to collect any misspent tax money.

Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman is working to ensure those who need heating assistance will get it. 

“The Commerce Department has taken the urgent steps necessary to ensure Minneapolis residents get heating and weatherization assistance as winter approaches,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “We are immediately transitioning the Energy Assistance and Weatherization Programs from Community Action of Minneapolis to neighboring community action agencies. This will preserve our services to Minneapolis residents.”

Community Action chief executive Bill Davis could not immediately be reached for comment. The organization provides weatherization, heating assistance and career counseling.

Minnesota Community Action Partnership, the umbrella group for the state's community action organizations, said the raid is a crucial and needed turning point.

“Local Community Action agencies are good government institutions," said Arnie Anderson, head of Minnesota Community Action Partnership. "Now, we can get this fixed. It will be better than ever. “ 

By 11 a.m., Community Action of Minneapolis employees were told to go home.

"We've been laid off," said Leslie Powell, a staffer. "I walk to work every day and I care about my community."

Staff posted a sign on Community Action's window saying they would not be taking energy assistance applications until further notice.

Cedric Gibbs and Anita Nunn had their energy assistance application in hand when they saw the sign.

Gibbs is disabled and has received assistance in the past.

Anita Nunn also showed up to complete her application.

"I should have brought everything with me," Nunn said. "Yesterday they acted like everything was okay."

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