Hestness leaves city police force

Deputy Chief Greg Hestness, an East Harriet resident and 28-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Force, is taking a job as the assistant vice president for public safety at the University of Minnesota.

Hestness' name was floated as a potential candidate to replace retiring Police Chief Robert Olson.

"It was an option. I would have competed," Hestness said. "I competed last time, but I was grossly underqualified. I have made a commitment to the university. I won't be a candidate [for Police Chief]."

Hestness will report to Kathleen O'Brien, vice president of university services, a former Minneapolis City Councilmember and city coordinator. He will supervise University Police Chief George Aylward and central security, oversee emergency preparedness, and have the responsibility for the safety of the roughly 60,000 faculty members, students and staff.

Hestness, 50, said the job gave him the chance at a second career without having to leave his home town.

Mayor R.T. Rybak called Hestness a "great partner."

"He would call me to tell me about a good deed an ordinary cop had done who deserved a phone call from me or a crime victim who needed my support," Rybak said. "He has also played a special role in helping the Police Department in working with people with mental illness. He made it a passion of his."

Hestness headed the Internal Services Bureau in 2000 when police shot Barbara Schneider in her Uptown apartment -- one of three times in a single-year span in which police used deadly force in confrontations with mentally ill people.

Hestness recalled responding to the Schneider shooting because it happened near his house. Olson assigned him to develop new strategies for police to deal with mentally ill people, he said.

The Minneapolis Police sent staff to Memphis, Tenn., which has a model program, and developed its own training curriculum, which includes opportunities for police to interact with mentally ill people and their family members. The Police Department has developed its own Crisis Intervention Teams.

Last May, the Barbara Schneider Foundation held a thank-you event for the Crisis Intervention Teams.

Theresa Carufel, a foundation board member, called Hestness a pivotal person in setting up the program.

"He was supportive and understanding -- and supportive of his officers," said Carufel, a communication and family representative with Tasks Unlimited, which provides housing and job support to people with chronic and persistent mental illness. "As far as our relation with the police and their understanding of mental illness, it is very improved."

Hestness graduated from the University of Minnesota in sociology. He most recently led the North Field Services Bureau and his coverage area included the university. He and 2nd Precinct staff have collaborated with university police on better preparedness for sports violence, following the most recent hockey riots.

He did a stint as a patrol officer in the now-defunct 6th Precinct, 2639 Nicollet Ave. S., as well as three years as the 5th Precinct commander. He has worked the past nine years in the chief's office.