Minneapolis police chief to step down at year’s end

  • Article by: MATT MCKINNEY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 25, 2012 - 11:19 PM

Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan announces he'll retire at year's end. His legacy: Less crime, more technology, some controversy.

A local boy raised on the city's North Side who climbed the police ranks to become chief, Tim Dolan announced Wednesday that he will retire at the end of the year, capping 30 years on the Minneapolis force.

Dolan, a married father of four who turns 57 next month, has long hinted he would step down when his second three-year term expires.

His six years as chief have seen crime levels drop significantly, a trend recorded in other large cities as well but one that was pronounced in Minneapolis.

His tenure also has coincided with sweeping changes to police technology, something he pursued by expanding the department's video camera network, opening an intelligence center where officers can watch live video feeds from throughout the city, and overseeing the addition of a "Shotspotter" network of gunshot-sensing microphones.

His critics faulted him on his disciplinary record and the city saw expensive payouts in civil cases involving police conduct, including a $2.19 million judgment against two officers who fatally shot an unarmed man.

Dolan's is the latest in a string of departures by top city officials. The fire, development, human resources and regulatory chiefs have all left in the past year.

His retirement was announced via a memo to the Police Department and the City Council.

Contacted at a hotel in Washington, D.C., where he was attending a police conference Wednesday, Dolan declined to discuss his decision at length.

"After 35 years, this is when I should be going. Things are in good shape," he said.

He declined to speculate about his potential replacement or reflect on his tenure thus far.

Several candidates are likely to be considered. Assistant Chief Janee Harteau, who was her promoted to be Dolan's No. 2 in late 2010, confirmed Wednesday that she plans to apply for the job.

"I am incredibly vested in this city and proud to be a member of this police department," said Harteau, who also was in Washington. She declined to discuss the matter further.

Falling crime levels

With little doubt, the key accomplishment of Dolan's years has been the steady drop in the crime rate. Year-over-year since 2006, the city has seen fewer violent crimes -- defined as homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assaults and domestic aggravated assault. The city recorded 6,374 violent crimes in 2006, when he became chief. That number fell to 3,720 last year.

Serious crimes -- meaning all violent crime plus burglary, larceny, theft from motor vehicle, auto theft and arson -- fell from 29,474 in 2006 to 23,049 last year.

The annual tally became a press opportunity for Dolan and Mayor R.T. Rybak, who often appeared together to announce the latest good news.

Rybak said Wednesday that he deeply respects Dolan.

"I have been through a lot with him -- many crises, many tragic moments and some real successes," he said.

Rybak credited Dolan with working on youth violence prevention and curtailing the number of illegal handguns on the street. He also praised Dolan for his leadership style, saying he showcased others around him while developing community partnerships.

34 years in law enforcement

Dolan became a Hennepin County sheriff's deputy in 1978 and joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 1983 as a patrol officer. He served as inspector on the North Side, where he grew up in the Hawthorne neighborhood, and also headed the department's narcotics unit.

He became interim chief in March 2006 after Bill McManus left to become the chief in San Antonio. Dolan was named chief in October of that year.

His tenure was tested early, when in July 2006 officer Jason Andersen shot Fong Lee, killing the 19-year-old during a brief foot chase. The officer said that Lee, who was suspected in a drug deal, was carrying a gun. The case inflamed the city's Hmong community, and proved a test for the Police Department's community relations skills.

A Hennepin County grand jury later cleared the officer of criminal wrongdoing, and a federal jury in 2009 said he did not use excessive force. A theory pushed by the victim's family that police had planted a gun near Lee's body was deemed a "fairy tale" by Dolan.

Dolan has not been without critics. Some City Council members expressed concerns over the expensive settlements the city has paid because of police misconduct, including improper use of Tasers and kicking during police stops, some captured on videotape. Dolan won his second term on an 8-5 vote by the council, drawing support from members representing downtown and the city's northern half.

In addition, the board of the Civilian Police Review Authority, the citizen group that receives complaints about police misconduct, issued a statement late last year saying it had no confidence in Dolan. The board said he routinely ignored their findings of police misconduct and did not discipline officers. A city plan to revamp the group was released last month. It calls for more police say in the group's investigations.

Rybak, who appointed Dolan, has repeatedly defended him. Several weeks ago, Rybak told a group of activists that Dolan had fired more officers than any other police chief in city history.

As chief, Dolan has fired 13 officers, according to department records. The terminating offenses have ranged from drunken driving, to lying on police reports, to using unreasonable force.

Dolan, an Edina resident, is eligible for a pension of about $129,000 annually, based on his 30 years on the job and his highest five years of pay, according to a Star Tribune estimate.

City Council Member Don Samuels, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said Dolan "stabilized the force after a tumultuous era" and restored morale.

"He was very fair and level-headed, never overpromised, so there were not a lot of times when people were disappointed by him."

Staff writers Randy Furst, Maya Rao and Corey Mitchell contributed to this report. Matt McKinney • 612-673-7329

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