What skills do citizens want in the next police chief?

Following a year of terror alerts, increasing street violence and accusations of racial injustice perpetuated by police, chosen candidates in the running to be the next Minneapolis Police Chief have a rough road ahead to prove they're adequately prepared for the job.

Here, a random sampling of Southwest neighborhood residents and workers say what qualities and skills they want to see in the next police chief.

Surprisingly, many average folks were hesitant to talk about the subject, saying they don't know enough about the police or crime issues to feel comfortable commenting.

Among those who did respond, although, answers varied greatly.

Neighborhood residents and business owners talked more about the background and qualifications they want the next police chief have, from education to work experience. Community organizers and nonprofits staffers, however, talked about overarching issues they want the next chief to address, such as racial profiling and police brutality.

Desired qualifications CARAG businessperson Thomas Norton, owner of Bryant Hardware, 818 W. 36th St., said he's had limited experience with the police, mentioning one encounter resulting from break-in at his business two years ago.

Based on his experience, Norton said he wants the next police chief to increase the emphasis on community policing, not community contact through public relations people or liaisons.

"I want to meet the guy who's going to show up at my door at midnight when somebody breaks in," he said.

"[The next chief] has got to know about city policing and have done it," Norton said. "The worst thing they could do is get a suburban city chief."

Fulton resident Dave Delvoye, cited community policing as one reason he thinks current Deputy Chief of Southfield Services Lucy Gerold, is the perfect candidate to be the next chief. Gerold rose from being one of the city's first civilian crime prevention specialists to a uniformed officer to head of Southwest's 5th Police Precinct.

"I don't know why they're doing a nationwide search," he said. "She has great respect in the department and community."

He said she'd be a good chief because she has good leadership skills and started as a civilian officer and has worked her way through the ranks of the police department after becoming a sworn officer.

Wedge resident Carol Wilson said, however, that she'd prefer someone not be too vested in the community, so they could function as a chief with no political ties.

"I'm not looking for someone coming up through the ranks; I'm looking for a professional," she said. "We need someone really good from the outside."

Chris Spotted Eagle, an East Isles resident and Native American community activist, said having a police chief without political ties is impossible because the rank of police chief is part of an elite class in society, susceptible to the powers of the surrounding government.

"He or she is a political entity," he said. "It's the nature of society that works from the top down."

Wilson said she would like the next police chief to be an excellent administrator, delegating work to free up his or her time so as to get back into the community. She said a degree in sociology, criminology and psychology are important for the next chief to possess, possibly at masters level.

Background aside, Wilson said it's important to find someone to get out in the streets and see what goes on. She said in all of South Minneapolis, but especially along Franklin, Portland and Chicago avenues, she often sees drug dealing and prostitution. "The criminal activity is so blatant, I'm embarrassed to have family and friends come visit," she said.

Community issues Father Lorenzo Hubbard, the priest at Segrado Corazon de Jesus Catholic Church, 2211 Clinton Ave. and Incarnation Catholic Church, 3817 Pleasant Ave., serves large portions of Southwest's Latino churchgoers.

He said, for his congregation, they'd like to see a continued effort from the next police chief to keep the Minneapolis police duties separate from those of the Immigration and Naturalization Services. [The City Council recently made this policy city law.]

Hubbard said police intimidate many Latinos; despite the city's policy, they often present themselves as INS agents, posing the threat of deportation. He said police look at Latinos as second-class citizens, which is unfair given Latino contribution to the city's economy and community.

"If they do not have all of their papers with them and in order, they are readily taken to jail and their car is impounded," Hubbard said. "People are fearful whether they have their papers with them or not."

Hubbard said programs like the Department's Latino Citizens Academy and SAFE program have helped bridge the gap between Latino residents and the police, helping both parties understand each other and work together better.

Lissa Jones, executive director of African American Family Services, 2616 Nicollet Ave. S., said it's important the next

chief understand how African Americans view police and are viewed by police.

Her nonprofit counsels blacks on chemical, mental and social issues. Jones said understanding perceptions would help build bridges to the black community and partner to work towards the same goals.

Jones said the new chief must focus on a few specific issues, such as racial profiling. She added that for her organization, how police deal with mentally ill people must be improved in a new administration.

While Jones wants better police conduct during encounters, Bill Cooley, a board member of Communities United Against Police Brutality, 2104 Stevens Ave., said the next police chief must better address civilian treatment after an encounter with the police. He said police are not held accountable for "police crimes" or incidents of brutality.

CUAPB members work as victims' advocates, with a hotline to advise those alleging police brutality on what they should do afterward. Cooley said the group gets about 15 hotline calls per week, accumulating approximately one new case per day.

He said his organization is currently involved in a class action lawsuit against the city and police, alleging a pattern of numerous incidents of police brutality.

Cooley said the violence and injustice he hears about from callers needs to be addressed by the next chief. "That's what people talk about the most," he said.

Spotted Eagle is on the advisory board for CUAPB and other groups involved in protecting civil rights. He said -- speaking for himself, not the Native community --police brutality is a very large problem that needs attention.

A filmmaker, Spotted Eagle said he's seen great social conflicts emerge while doing documentary interviews about police brutality in the city. He said a paradox is that those allegedly abused by police still must count on them for help.

He said short of having people elect a chief, society would benefit from replacing a single police chief with a group to serve the same function and better represent a diverse population.

Spotted Eagle acknowledged decision-making would be more difficult and less efficient, but in the long run, decisions would be better for all.