The night before Tony Bouza was sworn in as Minneapolis' 48th police chief in February 1980, the department's vice squad raided a downtown gay bathhouse. Doors were kicked down and 102 men cited.

Bouza immediately removed the head of the vice squad and his supervisor. "I called it the shortest honeymoon ever," he recalled in his self-published memoir, "Confessions of a Police Misfit."

Bouza, a former New York City police administrator who ran the Minneapolis Police Department during the 1980s with a mandate for reform — and often riled the police union in the process — died Monday at the Amira Choice care center in Bloomington after a short illness. He was 94.

Bouza "was a very complex person," said Bob Lutz, a Minneapolis deputy chief under Bouza who went on to become Bloomington's police chief. "He had high principles. He could be very right and very wrong ... [but] he was a great man to work for."

During his nine-year tenure, Bouza advocated aggressive tactics — decoys, stings and stakeouts — along with more street crime arrests, faster emergency response and vigorous traffic enforcement.

He ordered officers to wear name tags, pushed to remove what he said was the small number who regularly used excessive force — he called them "thumpers" — and invigorated the Internal Affairs unit to investigate police misconduct. He sought to recruit more women and people of color for the force.

Bouza's agenda won high marks from Mayor Don Fraser, who had appointed him, as well as some City Council members and residents.

"Tony was immovable in his principles and unapologetic about his methods," said Rip Rapson, a Kresge Foundation CEO who was Fraser's deputy mayor. "He was direct when it would have been easier to evade. He was visionary when it would have been understandable to not rock the boat. He was courageous when it would have been excusable to play things safe."

But Bouza also got sustained criticism from leaders of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, the union representing police officers. Some said he should have added more police to improve response time.

"I thought he was a blowhard," said Al Berryman, a former federation president. "I think he took a department and ran it down so low in personnel it was ineffective."

Rising in the ranks

Born in 1928 in El Seijo, Spain, Bouza was raised by his mother, Encarnacion; his father worked as a seaman and was rarely home. His mother fled Spain with Bouza and her daughter in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War, joining her sister in New York City.

After graduating from high school in Brooklyn, Bouza served two years in the U.S. Army and then went to work in New York City's garment district. Encouraged by his mother, he entered the police academy and in 1953 became a New York City police officer, earning $60 a week.

Bouza rose through the ranks of a police department he described in one of about a dozen books as "a brutal, racist and seriously corrupt agency." During his 23 years with the New York City police, he held some of the department's highest-ranking positions, heading the communications, planning and traffic divisions, and serving as commander in Harlem and the Bronx.

"He should have ended up heading the police departments of one of the giant cities — New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — to show what he could do," Thomas Repetto, former president of the Citizens Crime Commission in New York City, told the Star Tribune in 2013. "I like to say he is the greatest police commissioner New York City never had."

A 1976 profile of Bouza in the New York Times described him as a maverick and "by all odds, the most controversial" member of the department's 26,000-member police force.

Bouza ran into a firestorm of criticism in 1976 for comments he made after a heavyweight boxing match at Yankee Stadium between Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton. He called rampaging young people who were harassing boxing fans "feral children," a comment that city leaders considered racist.

A few weeks later, Bouza blasted the police hierarchy while speaking to a citizens group. "The department is in bad shape," he said. "There has to be a restructuring from top to bottom with a weeding out of psychos, criminals and the unfit."

Bouza quit before he could be fired, taking a job as deputy chief of the city's transit police. He lost that job in 1979 under a new mayoral administration and became an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Move to Minneapolis

After DFLer Don Fraser was elected mayor of Minneapolis in 1979, he went searching for a new police chief who was committed to reform. The department was top heavy with supervisors — 42% of its 700-member force — and in need of an aggressive internal watchdog unit to deal with errant officers, said Donald Dwyer, the outgoing temporary chief. Fraser chose Bouza over another finalist because "he was the most qualified."

One of Bouza's first decisions was to replace two-officer squad cars with single-officer squads. When officer Richard Miller was murdered alone in his squad car in 1981, many officers blamed Bouza; others dismissed the accusation, saying that two might have been as easily killed as one.

Bouza thought the department was "bloated," and he resisted demands for more officers. He reduced the number of captains to 11 from 22 and slashed the number of lieutenants to 45 from 112. He also cut the number of precincts from six to four.

"I was a pare-down efficiency expert," Bouza said in a recent interview. "I saw myself as a master of efficiency."

His tendency to say whatever was on his mind often got him into trouble. In 1985, he charged City Council members Dennis Schulstad and Walt Dziedzic with "carrying water for the police union" and likened Schulstad to "Charlie Stenvig in drag," referring to Minneapolis' former right-wing mayor. Fraser suspended Bouza without pay for three days.

A comment that Bouza later called "a mistake, one of the worst I ever made," was his remark in the mid-1980s that Minneapolis didn't have a gang problem. Steve Cramer, president and CEO of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, was then on the City Council and disagreed with Bouza's assessment. But he voted twice to reappoint him as chief.

"Overall, he was an effective chief," Cramer said.

Later years

Bouza wasn't the only member of his family who made headlines. In 1983, his wife Erica, who was a pacifist, was one of 139 protesters arrested by Minneapolis police for trespassing at Honeywell's headquarters to protest the company's production of cluster bombs for the U.S. military. It was the first of her about 11 peace-related civil disobedience arrests in the Twin Cities, leading to a feature about the couple in People magazine.

Said Bouza at the time: "She does what she thinks is right. I didn't talk her in or out of it."

Joe Selvaggio, retired executive director of Project for Pride in Living, said that Bouza, by disposition, was an in-your-face New Yorker. "I think he would have preferred to return to New York, but Erica really liked it here because of her peacenik friends," he said.

According to his son Dominick, of Minneapolis, Bouza bought doughnuts for the Honeywell protesters when they were taken downtown to be booked. When some officers ate them, Bouza threatened them with discipline. The next time he bought doughnuts, the protesters got them.

Over the objections of Bouza and Fraser, the City Council in 1988 added 72 officers in the face of rising crime. The council, Bouza said, was "spooked by ... crimes that could not have been prevented by a thousand additional cops."

Later that year, he announced he was stepping down, telling Fraser the department needed fresh ideas and new blood. He accepted Gov. Rudy Perpich's appointment as Minnesota gaming commissioner, serving from 1989 to 1991, even though he was philosophically opposed to gambling.

In 1994, Bouza decided to run for governor as a DFLer. Early polls showed him in the lead, but several stumbles proved costly. Former Mayor R.T. Rybak, who co-chaired the campaign, said Bouza's poll numbers tanked when he called for the confiscation of handguns. He was defeated in the DFL primary.

In recent years, Bouza wrote a regular column for Southside Pride, a monthly south Minneapolis neighborhood newspaper.

Besides his wife and son Dominick, Bouza is survived by his son Tony, of Santa Monica, Calif.; and four grandchildren. Plans for a memorial service have not been set.

After leaving office, Bouza served as an expert defense witness for 20 years, flying around the United States for court appearances.

"The cases usually involved Black victims of white police brutality," he wrote in his book. "I saw my work as an instrument of reform and accountability."

Staff librarian John Wareham did research for this article.