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

Justice Department releases report on MPD "early intervention system"

Posted by: Libor Jany under Public safety Updated: January 28, 2015 - 9:25 PM

Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau spoke the city's drop in crime. / JERRY HOLT

An independent review has concluded that the Minneapolis Police Department’s “early intervention system” should be fundamentally overhauled.

Police Chief Janeé Harteau, who requested the year-long study – titled "Diagnostic Analysis of Minneapolis Police Department, MN" – said it “validates we are headed in the right direction.” She said her department would comply with the report’s recommendations.

“I am pleased to report we have been given some valuable and tangible recommendations on progressive steps we can take to enhance our community relationships and increase public trust and accountability,” said Harteau, who has made no secret of her desire to overhaul the department.

The report, a draft version of which was released in October, was compiled by diagnostics center within the DOJ's Office of Justice Programs.

It identified five key areas of improvement:

  • "Lack of a strategic approach to communications"
  • "Gaps in community relations, involvement and collaboration"
  • "Lack of community knowledge and trust in the police conduct and oversight process"
  • "Lack of an effective EIS that has been fully adopted by MPD"
  • "Inconsistencies and confusion in the coaching process"

Harteau discussed the findings at an community meeting at police headquarters downtown on Wednesday afternoon, joined by Mark Kappelhoff, the deputy assistant general in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and senior diagnostic specialist Hildy Saizow, one of the study’s authors.

“The MPD is committed to promoting transparency and public engagement, to institutionalizing accountability and to doing so in a way that will benefit the officers and help them do their jobs better,” Kappelhoff said at an earlier news conference. “It’s really going to build trust with the community. That’s what today is all about.”

But several speakers at the afternoon meeting said the recommendations didn’t go far enough.

Longtime community leader Spike Moss said that federal officials had previously intervened, but had little to show for it. He wondered whether this time would be any different.

Nekima Levy-Pounds, a local activist and college law professor, said she felt uncomfortable with the lack of transparency around the report.

“I want to make a recommendation that we actually be given a comprehensive report with critical analysis of what happened, the data you looked at and all of the information,” said Levy-Pounds. “If you’re serious about transparency. Anything short of that is a joke.”

Others questioned the effectiveness of the Office of Police Conduct Review, which recently released its end-of-year report, in disciplining officers accused of misconduct and said that it was opaque about its policies.

Between 2008-2013, 12 officers were fired for misconduct, 64 suspended and 76 received a letter of reprimand, the report found. The majority of offending officers were sent to coaching.

Most complaints against officers involved use of inappropriate language, "inappropriate attitudes," and violation of the "policy and procedure manual," according to the report. Nearly half the time, complaints against officers were dismissed, the data shows. In 28 percent of the misconduct cases, the officer was sent to coaching.

The study's author's also suggested that the department start collecting data on "history and location of citizen complaints to identify patterns and frequency of occurrence."

The full report is below:

OJP Diagnostic Analysis of Minneapolis Police Department by Libor Jany

For sale: Historic North Side fire station

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: January 28, 2015 - 4:03 PM

Minneapolis officials are seeking development ideas for a somewhat unique property in north Minneapolis: A 74-year-old former fire station.

The fire department stopped using the station on 33rd and James Avenues after a new one was built on Lowry Avenue in 2006. The city solicited proposals for the site on Wednesday, particularly those that would convert it into small-scale retail, commercial or office space.

The city won't accept proposals to demolish the building, however.

The station lies in one of the most economically depressed segments of the city in the Folwell neighborhood. The 2011 tornado severely damaged many houses in the surrounding area, as well as the street trees.

The city estimated that the estimated market value of the .38 acre site is $230,000. Proposals must be submitted by February 26.

Converted fire houses abound in Minneapolis. Examples include the Mixed Blood Theatre in Cedar-Riverside, a condo on 35th and Hennepin and Harriet Brasserie in Linden Hills.

If you're curious, there's an entire website dedicated to former Minneapolis fire stations.

Minneapolis marks record year for conventions, events

Posted by: Erin Golden under Local business, Parks and recreation, Politics and government, Urban living Updated: January 28, 2015 - 1:27 PM

 

American Idol contestants are interviewed by producers for the show before judges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick, Jr. and Keith Urban arrive at the Minneapolis Convention Center to judge the local American Idol auditions in September. LEILA NAVIDI / leila.navidi@startribune.com

 

Minneapolis filled more hotel rooms and snagged more big events in 2014 than in any other previous year, according to the organization that handles the city's convention and tourism business.

Meet Minneapolis said this week that it hit record levels in four areas: the number of hotel room nights booked for future events, room nights booked for leisure, revenue from sponsorships and revenue from the Minneapolis Convention Center. The facility took in $16.6 million in revenue as the city hosted a record 534 meetings and conventions. 

Much of the good news is tied to hotel bookings for future events, including more than 71,000 room nights that have already been booked for the 2018 Super Bowl and more than 52,000 bookings for the NCAA Men's Final Four basketball tournament in 2019. 

Melvin Tennant, the president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, said in a statement that Minneapolis' 72 percent annual hotel occupancy rate stands out among other cities. Maintaining a rate of 70 percent, he said, is considered "nationally enviable."

The organization also noted that Minneapolis' Target Center was ranked No. 6 among all U.S. arenas based on event tickets sold in 2014, according to the agency Pollstar. It ranked No. 17 in the world. 

Events scheduled for 2015 include the National Senior Games in July, which is expected to draw 35,000 people to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Bloomington. 

"We certainly hope to replicate the past year's successes in the future," Tennant said. 

Mayor releases 'Cradle to K' plan

Posted by: Erin Golden under Politics and government, Urban living Updated: January 27, 2015 - 4:40 PM

Expanded housing for poor families, additional home visits for new parents and more spots in "high-quality early learning programs" are among the recommendations released Tuesday by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges' cabinet on young children.

The mayor's Cradle to K Cabinet was convened in May and tasked with coming up with strategies to improve health, housing and childcare opportunities for the city's youngest residents. The group of academics, nonprofit and health leaders and parents drafted a 37-page preliminary report, posted on the city's website Tuesday. 

The plan offers a handful of key goals, along with suggestions for expanding funding on some programs and researching new ways to pay for others. It does not provide an estimate of how much it would cost to meet the goals, or which portion could be the responsibility of the city, rather than another government agency or private group.

Among the suggestions: increase the number of clinics participating in an early childhood screening program, develop a plan to identify mental health needs in children under age three and find funding to develop 10 affordable housing units for poor families by the end of next year.

The group will now take comments on its plan, both online and in a series of public meetings, before releasing a final report this spring. 

Hodges said the process "puts some meat on the bones" of child-focused work already underway in the city. Because stepping up those efforts will require the help of outside agencies, she said it's important to have a specific plan in writing.

"I want to make sure that everybody has buy-in to what we're doing, that everybody has investment in what we're doing and that it is a call to action to our entire community," she said. "What happens with our youngest people in Minneapolis is important to every age of person in Minneapolis."

Carolyn Smallwood, co-chairwoman of the cabinet and executive director of Way to Grow, an early education-focused nonprofit, said the panel doesn't intend to replace or duplicate the work of other organizations. She pointed to home visiting programs as an example of something that should be expanded. One of the group's recommendations calls for added funding for "evidence-based and culturally relevant home visiting practices and standards."

"There are other initiatives going on throughout the state and in the city that certainly can complement this," she said.

Hodges said she expects she can find support for the goals among state legislators -- even those with very different political leanings. 

"I would say one of the benefits of talking about children (ages) birth to three is that everybody cares about children birth to three," she said. "And so the conversation starts from a place of care and attention and agreement that those are important people in our world."

Weather throws Mpls Loppet a curve again

Posted by: Steve Brandt under Parks and recreation, Politics and government, Urban living Updated: January 27, 2015 - 4:20 PM

For the second time in four years, unseasonably warm weather is forcing a last-minute change of venues and routes for this weekend's City of Lakes Loppet, the signature outdoors winter event in Minneapolis.

Event organizers announced Tuesday that they're shifting most events to the loop at Wirth Park with snow-making equipment, just as they did in 2012. The notable exception is that the popular luminary lopped, a candlelit ski and snowshoe recreational event, will stay at Lake of the Isles, where it will be a walking-only event.

The change from skis to foot traffic means that the luminary event will be able to accommodate more than the 7,000-person cutoff it had already reached. "You can only have so many people with six-foot-long skis and poles," said John Munger, executive director of The Loppet Foundation.

The foundation directed participants in its events, as varied as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skijoring, dogsledding, snow biking and "lawn" games to its website for updated information about times and places of events.

"We're trying to make the best of things," Munger said.  "We're trying to dust off the things we did in 2012."

The loppet's signature ski races will be run on multiple circuits of Wirth's hilly competitive ski course rather than the traditional courses that stretch from that park to Lake Calhoun.

"We tried our best [Monday],  We had pickup trucks with plows," Munger said of a loppet call Monday for shovelers to volunteer to help prepare the course. But with four inches of water atop the ice, "we went out and had a beer instead."  

Although the change leaves just three days for organizers to adjust, the 13th annual event's history provides a rationale for waiting as long as possible for snow.  In its first year, only 30 people had registered six days before the race due to lack of snow, but that zoomed to 800 racers after snow arrived later that week.

  

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