Minneapolis police chief leaving for San Antonio

Assistant Police Chief Tim Dolan will serve as interim head of police

For the second time in three years, Minneapolis is in the market for a new police chief.

Police Chief William McManus announced March 15 that he will be leaving to lead the San Antonio Police Department. Although only two years into his three-year term in Minneapolis, McManus will begin his new job in San Antonio April 17.

Mayor R.T. Rybak has named Assistant Police Chief Tim Dolan as his pick for interim police chief. He will submit Dolan’s name to the City Council’s Executive Committee the week of March 27 for approval. If approved, he would serve as interim chief for 90 days.

Dolan, a 23-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department who grew up on the North Side and attended Nicollet Island’s DeLaSalle High School, was instrumental in developing a strategic partnership with a broad coalition of public safety officials to address a spike in homicides in the city last summer, Rybak said.

“San Antonio will have a very good police chief and so will Minneapolis in Tim Dolan,” Rybak said. “Chief McManus started some good initiatives here, and I believe Tim Dolan will be able to bring them to success.”

McManus’ decision to accept the job in San Antonio came in the midst of a push by Rybak to reconfirm the chief by the end of the month. While the reconfirmation process for another three-year term normally wouldn’t begin until early summer, Rybak had hoped a renewed contract would convince McManus to stay. Rybak said the move was “designed to secure stability within the Police Department” and said he had enough support from City Council members to finalize the deal.

But the show of support may have been too late for McManus. At a press conference March 7, he said he applied for the job in San Antonio when he was uncertain about his future in Minneapolis. His contract had been set to expire at the end of the year, and city policy only required that he be notified about his job status six months before his first term ended.

“I think City Hall politics gave him the wrong impression that people didn’t want him,” said Sam Grabarski, president and CEO of the Downtown Council, the multipurpose business association for Downtown. “I think that’s been corrected now, but I think that’s an impression that I think he certainly deserves to have had.”

Grabarski has worked extensively with McManus and said although no one is irreplaceable, the chief will be hard to replace. He also said the progress of several important initiatives – including an interjurisdictional policing team, reforms to the off-duty police system and a program putting private sector safety ambassadors in the service improvement district – could suffer setbacks with McManus’ departure.

“I think that one of his greatest strengths is his honesty and the willingness to be frank,” Grabarski said. “When we have had flare-ups of criminal activity in the Downtown Central Business District, he has been a breath of fresh air, not choosing to go for political gain or for politeness to ignore problems.”

At his review last year, city officials commended McManus for diversifying the upper levels of the Police Department. He promoted Captain Kris Arneson, a woman, to be the 5th Precinct’s inspector; Don Harris, a black inspector, to be deputy chief; and Val Wurster, a black woman, to lead the 2nd Precinct. He also drew praise for creating an assistant chief position and a division for quality control of officer performance and conduct.

While McManus has led the Department through noticeable changes, many neighborhood leaders say they’ve had little contact with the police chief. They rely instead on strong bonds with their precinct officers and inspectors.

“We have a really strong relationship with the fifth precinct,” Stevens Square Community Organization Safety and Outreach Coordinator Dave Delvoye said.

Whittier Community Organizer Josie Shardlow and Lyndale Neighborhood Association Community Organizer Kristine Danzinger echoed that thought, noting that they have also had little contact with the chief.

In San Antonio, McManus will lead a police department more than twice the size of that in Minneapolis. San Antonio is the eighth largest city in the nation with more than 1.2 million people, according to the 2004 census. Minneapolis ranks 48th with nearly 374,000.

San Antonio Mayor Phil Hardberger said he’s “delighted” to welcome McManus on board.

“Chief McManus’ depth of experience as a public safety leader and exemplary qualifications make him a valuable resource to our community,” said San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who selected McManus from a field of eight finalists.

Minneapolis city leaders will now turn their focus to starting the selection process for a new police chief. The city spent nearly $34,000 in 2003 on the search for a new police chief.