On Night in Minneapolis

AN EXCERPT FROM: Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption, and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police.

This story comes from back in my days as a tactical patrol officer in Minneapolis, circa mid-1960s:

One night in Minneapolis, I had a strange meeting with one of the department captains. This encounter opened my eyes about what was going on around me in the city:

One night, while working on a city-wide tactical squad, my partner and I took down an after-hours tippling house—an unlicensed establishment that served alcohol after hours. When I entered and asked for the person who resided there, the man who looked at me and asked me who I was and what unit I came from. Then he said something strange to me: “Does Captain _____ know you are doing this?” Now, I knew this captain wasn’t in charge of this precinct. He worked downtown. I told the owner that, no, the captain didn’t know about this, and that if he did, so what? Then he told me I had better call Captain _____. I ignored his request. As we were processing the arrests, a noticed Captain _____ driving up in his personal car. It was well after 3 a.m. in the morning and well outside of his normal working hours. The captain asked to see me and then said to me, “Do you know what you are doing?” I said yes, I did, and told him what we had found and that I was surprised to see him out so early in the morning. He paused. Stared back and me and  then, without further comment, drove away. My colleagues looked at me, wondering what was going to happen. Nothing ever did. No one at headquarters or my supervisor ever discussed the arrests with me. Even today, I have the distinct feeling that those of us on the tactical squad that early morning so long ago made the blue subculture a little less threatening. After all, we were that new breed, different ones, the “college cops.” That night those of us on that new tactical squad, defined ourselves as to who we were. I’d like to think that night made a difference in Minneapolis. I always wondered how much of a payoff the captain got for what seemed to me to be an obvious attempt at a police protection racket. I hope the proprietor thought he was a bad investment and quit paying him.

The interesting thing from this encounter is that nothing happened to me. Maybe it was because the unit to which I was assigned reported directly to a deputy chief. I still stayed on the squad. I was still recommended for promotion to detective a couple of years after this, and I got good recommendations from my chief when I went to Burnsville and then on to Madison.

Stay tuned for the release of my book in early March!

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About improvingpolice

I served over 20 years as the chief of police in Madison (WI), four years as chief of the Burnsville (MN) Police Department, and before that as a police officer in Edina (MN) and the City of Minneapolis. I hold graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota and Edgewood College in Madison. I have written many articles over my years as a police leader calling for police improvement (for example, How To Rate Your Local Police, and with my wife, Sabine, Quality Policing: The Madison Experience). After retiring from the police department, I answered a call to ministry, attended seminary, and was ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. At the present time, I serve a small church in North Lake (WI), east of Madison. Sabine and I have nine adult children, eleven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is also a retired police officer and we both continue active lives.

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