St. Paul police chief updates: Harrington to New Orleans? Coleman to name new chief soon

St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington — who’s stepping down from the job this summer — is one of six finalists for the chief’s job in New Orleans. The mayor-elect there hopes to narrow the field to three this week.

And St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman plans to name a replacement for Harrington within a week, from his lists of four finalists who are all are current St. Paul police top managers.

In New Orleans, all the finalists are men and all manage law enforcement agencies around the country, and as media reports down there note, whoever gets the job “will be stepping up to lead a larger law enforcement agency, one with more violent crime and thornier management issues, than the one he oversees now.”

Last month, Harrington downplayed reports that he was a front-runner for the New Orleans job but noted that city leaders there are very interested in community policing — where officers are more visible and helpful within the community, rather than guarding over it from the outside — which is considered a strength of the St. Paul department.

It’ll be a tough job for the new chief, though, he said, because the people don’t trust the police department because of charges of rampant corruption. “It’s tough to have community policing when the community doesn’t trust the police department,” he said.

In St. Paul, the finalists for the chief job are: Cmdr. Todd Axtell, a watch commander; Senior Cmdr. Colleen Luna, head of the Western District; Senior Cmdr. Bill Martinez, head of the Eastern District; and Assistant Chief Thomas Smith, who is in charge of operations.

Coleman held citizen forums with the chief candidates Monday (which forced the mayor to miss MinnRoast!) and Tuesday.

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