Robbinsdale revising policy after chief arrested in prostitution sting

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 2, 2014 - 8:45 PM

Police Chief Steven Smith’s resignation came more than a month after he was arrested in a prostitution sting.

Robbinsdale police are revising a policy about officers self-reporting arrests after former chief Steven Smith waited more than a month to report his arrest in a prostitution sting.

Smith, the northwest suburb’s police chief since 2008, resigned March 22, making state and national news and prompting not just his former police department to review its policy, but others.

“Everybody’s scrambling right now because it was a big story,” said Neil Melton, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

The board doesn’t mandate policies, leaving it up to local departments. Robbinsdale’s current policy states that an officer observing any illegal or unlawful behavior will report it to a superior.

“It’s kind of how you interpret it. He observed the activity because he was there,” Acting Police Chief Jim Franzen said about whether Smith violated the policy, adding that they will revise the policy to make it clearer. “I think a lot of police departments are looking at [their policies now].”

In an open letter to the city and residents last week, the 20-officer police department staff said the arrest left them “disappointed, stunned and upset.”

“Not only did the individual in question betray the public trust, he intentionally withheld information from our department as well as our city leadership,” the staff wrote. “ … It is our hope that the public and our city leadership will not judge our police department based on the actions of a single individual.”

Smith’s attorney, Paul Sarratori, declined to comment Wednesday.

Smith, 45, of Ham Lake, was arrested with 10 men during the Feb. 20 operation involving an undercover officer who posted an ad on BackPage.com with sexually suggestive photos and language, inviting clients to a private residence.

Smith continued to work until resigning March 22 after Coon Rapids staff recognized him in his mug shot. He was charged March 24 in Anoka County District Court; his next court date is May 22.

If Smith is convicted of the misdemeanor, the state board will decide whether to reprimand him, suspend his license or revoke it, Melton said.

Franzen is the only candidate being considered as Robbinsdale’s next police chief.

The city decided Tuesday to review his record and get input from law enforcement within the next 30 days.

Franzen could then be appointed new chief. He’s worked for Robbinsdale for five years after 20 years with Eden Prairie police.

In the open letter from the department’s staff last week, they also recommended Franzen for helping move the department forward and “maintain our integrity.”

“He is a fair and honest leader who has shown tremendous support, poise and leadership during this difficult time,” staff wrote. “His dedication to the citizens of Robbinsdale, his knowledge of our department as well as his leadership abilities make him the ideal candidate for the chief of police.”

Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141 Twitter: @kellystrib

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