Five months after SW police officer’s killing, public memorial undecided

Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson recently asked his staff to form a group with other city workers to find an appropriate memorial for slain Officer Melissa Schmidt — something on the magnitude of the parking ramp near City Hall named for Jerry Haaf, an officer gunned down in 1992, he said.

It is one of several memorials in the works. The Stevens Square Community Organization (SSCO) is in the early stages of planning a public art project, and the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA) will soon dedicate a plaque to her in her former office.

Schmidt, assigned to the department’s public housing unit, was shot and killed Aug. 1 by a 60-year-old woman in Horn Towers, West 31st Street and Blaisdell Avenue.

Olson said Jan. 3 he said requested work on the memorial in mid-December. He had not given a timeline for a recommendation.

"This is brand new," he said. "It is a thing I would like to get finished this year."

City Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward), one of the participants, said the five-member group held its first meeting Jan. 7. "I was disappointed it has taken this long," he said. "I don’t know why it fell through the cracks. It is now moving forward."

The city is taking longer than it did to honor Haaf. He was murdered Sept. 25, 1992, shot by a gang member at the Pizza Shack restaurant in south Minneapolis. Within one month — on Oct. 23, 1992 — the City Council passed a resolution to name the new parking ramp at 414 S. 4th St. the Jerry Haaf Memorial Ramp. On June 4, 1993, the city held the formal dedication, according to news accounts.

The Minneapolis Public Housing Authority will dedicate a plaque to Schmindt on Jan. 30, 3 p.m., at a public housing building at 2019 16th Ave. S., said MacArthur Walton, MPHA’s manager of security. The plaque will hang in 2123 16th Ave. S., the headquarters for city police working on the public housing unit, he said.

The ceremony is not open to the public, he said. Mayor R.T. Rybak, Olson and MPHA Executive Director Cora McCorvey are expected to speak to Schmidt’s family members and police.

The plaque reads: "Dedicated to the memory of Officer Melissa Schmidt, Minneapolis Police Department Public Housing Unit, who gave her life serving the citizens of Minneapolis. August 1st, 2002."

"It is something we wanted to do for the Police Department and the Schmidt family," Walton said. "This is the building where she worked. The officers from the unit decided they would like to have it (the plaque) in the conference room."

On Aug. 20, the CARAG neighborhood passed a motion asking the city for a more conspicuous memorial, naming the City Hall Light Rail Transit stop in Schmidt’s honor. (Schmidt had previously worked in the CARAG neighborhood, which is bounded by Lake Street, Hennepin Avenue, Lyndale Avenue and West 36th Street.)

Allan Bernard, CARAG president and an aide to Councilmember Paul Zerby (2nd Ward), said the Minnesota Department of Transportation rejected the request because it had already named the stop.

Bernard said when the LRT idea fell flat, Zerby asked the Minneapolis Police Department to rename either the 5th Precinct Headquarters, 3101 Nicollet Ave. S., or the Downtown Command, 19 N. 4th St., in Schmidt’s honor.

"It seems to me to be an absolutely appropriate memorial," Zerby said.

Olson said a number of people such as Zerby had floated memorial ideas, and the city needed a process to sort them out.

He did not want to eliminate any ideas from the start, Olson said, but he called it "a bit unusual" to rename a police precinct after someone.

"Then you go to the other (precincts), and are names going to get put on those?" he asked. "It’s the 4th Precinct. It’s the 3rd Precinct. It’s the 5th Precinct. Now what are you going to call it?"

The Stevens Square Community Organization has had initial talks with the staff at the city’s Arts in Public Places program about how it could pursue a separate Schmidt memorial.

Schmidt worked as a beat officer in Stevens Square early in her career, said Doug Kress, SSCO’s executive director. She patrolled two public housing complexes there during her last assignment. The neighborhood boundaries are I-94, Hennepin and Franklin avenues and I-35W.

Dave Delvoye, SSCO’s safety coordinator, and Jeff Bailey, a Hennepin County probation and parole officer, are leading the memorial effort. They want to identify others interested in collaborating before proceeding, they said.

Those interested should call Delvoye at 871-7307.