Minneapolis cops will return to city's schools

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN and S TEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: August 11, 2008 - 9:51 PM

The Minneapolis district will replace Park Police with city officers for security, liaisons.

For five years, the Minneapolis School District has employed the city's Park Police in its high schools and middle schools.

While officials say Park Police have served students well, the school board will vote today to switch to city police officers. The district would pay $868,537 for 14 liaison officers, a sergeant and a part-time lieutenant during the school year and two officers year-round.

The Park Police submitted a $902,706 proposal.

The city police plan also offered extensive collaboration and security protection that extends beyond school walls, said Dan Loewenson, the superintendent's board and community liaison.

"This kind of partnership with the city makes the most sense for us," he said.

A critical component of the city's proposal will be the district's ability to recruit, train and evaluate the liaison officers and the diversity they offer, Loewenson said. The Police Department also has agreed to patrol neighborhoods when it is asked to provide security at larger school events.

Both city and park officials maintained that developing relationships with youth is important.

Minneapolis Police Department Assistant Chief Sharon Lubinski said getting city officers back into schools is a key piece of the city's youth crime prevention program. The department's juvenile unit has 15 investigators working 24/7, and the new juvenile center works with youth to find social services.

"The mayor really believes it's critical that our youth violence prevention efforts give our young people opportunities to develop relationships with the police," Rybak spokesman Jeremy Hanson said.

But park commissioners said that having park police in schools for nine months makes the most sense because they deal with the same kids in the parks during summer months.

"It's a bad mistake, not only for the kids in schools but for the police in the parks," said Commissioner Walt Dziedzic, a retired officer.

City police served as school liaisons from 1966 until 2003. Then Chief-to-be Robert Olson wanted to cut the number of officers in schools and stonewalled on the price, according to David Jennings, who was the district's top operations official then. Park Commissioner Bob Fine said school officials also were frustrated with attempts to direct city-supplied officers.

Dziedzic said about eight of the 17 park officers who have been in schools can't be hired by the city because they've retired from that force.

The 15 officers who will become liaisons will be replaced by a new class of recruits who graduated this fall, she said.

dchanen@startribune.com • 612-673-4465 sbrandt@startribune.com • 612-673-4438

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