Ex-Robbinsdale police chief charged with misdemeanor in prostitution sting

  • Article by: PAUL LEVY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 24, 2014 - 11:27 PM

Coon Rapids police realized last week that he was one of 11 arrested, but city policy is not to inform employers.

Coon Rapids police realized last week that they had arrested Robbinsdale’s police chief during a February prostitution sting. But they didn’t tell Robbinsdale officials because it isn’t Coon Rapids’ policy to notify employers of arrests. Nor is it required by state law.

Former Robbinsdale Chief Steven D. Smith was charged Monday in Anoka County District Court with misdemeanor solicitation of a prostitute after being one of 11 individuals arrested in Coon Rapids on Feb. 20. Smith, who did not appear in court Monday, did not tell Robbinsdale officials about the arrest and continued to do his job until Saturday, when he resigned suddenly, to the shock of the mayor and City Council members.

Coon Rapids police officers did not realize they had arrested a metro-area police chief until last Wednesday, when one recognized Smith from his mug shot, said Coon Rapids Police Capt. John Hattstrom. Nobody notified Robbinsdale administrators.

“We don’t notify anyone’s employer, not usually,” Hattstrom said of Coon Rapids’ arrest policy. “The burden falls on the employee.”

Asked why nobody recognized Smith at the time of arrest, Hattstrom said, “All by himself, in a different city, a different county … we don’t know him.”

By Minnesota statute, police are not obligated to notify the state police board of wrongdoing by an officer. That burden falls on the officer in question, who has 90 days to notify the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training, said Neil Melton, the board’s executive director.

“It hasn’t been 90 days,” said longtime Robbinsdale City Council Member Bill Blonigan, an attorney familiar with the statute. He expressed disappointment and sadness over Smith’s arrest and declined to speculate on Smith’s reasoning for not notifying city administrators immediately after the arrest.

“My understanding, is when you’re arrested, you have to give 10 fingerprints, but you don’t have to tell what your job is,” Blonigan said.

Although Smith was charged with only a misdemeanor, a conviction for involvement with prostitutes is not allowed by the police board and would cost him his license, had he not resigned first, Melton said.

Smith, who had been Robbinsdale police chief since 2008, is married and has children. He was one of 11 men arrested at a private residence in Coon Rapids.

According to the Coon Rapids police report, Smith, 45, was arrested during an operation involving an undercover officer who posted an ad on BackPage.com under the “escorts” section.

The ad had sexually suggestive photos and language and invited clients to a private home, where they would be charged between $100 and $150 per hour.

Police seized $150 in cash from Smith, who was using the alias “Scott,” the police report said.

Text messages, recorded phone calls and photographs of money being exchanged are among the evidence Coon Rapids police collected.

Smith could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Paul Sarratori, did not immediately return a call from the Star Tribune.

Smith had risen through the ranks in Robbinsdale and was credited by the mayor and council members with fostering a strong relationship between the police department and citizens.

Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

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