Fifth Precinct loses veteran community liaison

Crime Prevention Specialist Tom Thompson was laid off Feb. 11 after a decade of service

To many Southwest residents, he was the face of the Minneapolis Police Department and the first point of contact for any non-emergency crime and safety information.

As a Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS) for the 5th Precinct’s second sector, Tom Thompson served as a community liaison between the police department and residents in the neighborhoods of West Calhoun, Linden Hills, East Calhoun, CARAG, Lyndale, East Harriet and Kingfield. He worked in the sector for five years after transferring from the 3rd Precinct, where he started his career with the police department in 2000.

He was laid off Feb. 11, a casualty of department-wide budget cuts announced earlier this year. Thompson was one of three CPSs in Southwest. His neighborhood duties will now be divided between the two remaining Southwest CPSs: Chelsea Adams and Amy Lavender.

Lavender, who has served the precinct for about a year, was initially the one slated to lose her job, but Thompson volunteered to take the hit.

“Basically I talked with my family and we had an opportunity to do some things in our lives that fell in line,” Thompson said. “The term I used is the stars just aligned and everything came together and said this was the way to go and we’re taking an opportunity that we have.”

Thompson served for 18 years as a sworn police officer and chief in Wisconsin before taking on the Minneapolis job. He and his family are moving back to Wisconsin, to his wife’s hometown of Luck, and he’s hoping to get back into law enforcement there.

During his time as a CPS, he helped organize several crime prevention and safety initiatives including a court watch program and an effort to revitalize Nicollet Avenue. He also worked with community members on block club development, dealing with problem properties, making homes and businesses safer and monitoring and preventing crime.

“When people think of the police, I think people in this neighborhood think of Tom,” said Sarah Linnes-Robinson, executive director of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association (KFNA).

She said Thompson was a regular at the organization’s Crime Prevention and Safety Committee meetings and was always eager to help the community however possible. He was known for being direct and not “taking the party line,” she said.

“Tom is great because he’s such an honest, real guy,” Linnes-Robinson said. “He really put a human face on the department.”

Mark Hinds, executive director of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association (LNA), said the services Thompson and CPSs in general provide to neighborhoods are critical. They interact with community members in a proactive way that beat officers just don’t have time to do, he said, making the loss of one CPS significant.

“Essentially, three was barely enough to cover the precinct and often it wasn’t enough when crime was going on,” Hinds said. “So I think it’s going to be an incredible challenge for two CPSs to cover an entire precinct.”

Lavender and Adams said they’re up to the task. Adams, who is responsible for Cedar Isles Dean, Kenwood, Lowry Hill, East Isles, Lowry Hill East, Whittier and Stevens Square, has added East Calhoun, CARAG, Linden Hills and West Calhoun to her coverage area. Lavender, who corresponds with Fulton, Lynnhurst, Tangletown, Armatage, Kenny and Windom, has taken on East Harriet, Kingfield and Lyndale.

“I think between Amy and I we will definitely be able to figure everything out and make sure we’re there for all the neighborhoods as much as possible and I don’t anticipate any problems in the amount of help or resources for neighborhoods,” Adams said.  

Thompson is also confident in the ability of his colleagues, as well as the resolve of the community members he’s befriended over the years. And if the department ever solves its budget problems and has room again for another CPS, Thompson said it’s possible he’ll return one day.

“I absolutely love the people that I work for,” he said. “The people I work for are the neighbors and the residents in the community… the reason I come to work every day is because I respect and I love the people in this community.”

Reach Jake Weyer at 436-4367 or 
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