The transfer of Charlie Adams from his high-profile position in the Minneapolis Police Department to obscurity is going to involve a lot more than some office paperwork.
Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan also is going to have to do a great deal of explaining to a highly skeptical audience.
Adams, who is black and a sergeant with 22 years of experience, learned Wednesday that he’s being transferred from his job as a homicide detective to the Fourth Precinct’s investigations unit, which means he’ll be dealing with such crimes as burglary and auto theft.
“Insubordination” is the word Dolan uses to explain the transfer.
“Institutional racism” is the phrase many black leaders are using to describe the move. A cross section of black leaders is expected to meet Friday to express their concerns over a series of moves Dolan has made since replacing Bill McManus as chief.
“Our bridges to the department have been taken away,” said community activist Spike Moss. “We’re back to the 1950s. Everything that McManus did has now been undone.”
Moss predicted there will be calls for the federal government to come into Minneapolis to run the department.
Adams the fourth black officer demoted
Adams is the fourth black officer to be demoted from a high-profile position in the past 10 months. Two of the moves were administrative, and two were disciplinary, Dolan said.
Previously, Deputy Chief Don Harris and Fourth Precinct Inspectors Don Banham and Lee Edwards were demoted.
The removal of Adams is the most controversial. He grew up in North Minneapolis, was popular with people in the community and with the media. He was also seen as a superstar cop, who, with his partner, Richard Zimmerman, handled the city’s highest profile cases.
“I was shocked when I was told I was being transferred,” Adams said. “I was told it was because of insubordination. I’ve never been written up for insubordination in my life.”
Adams did say there have been two incidents with Lt. Amelia Huffman, who took over as head of the homicide unit in September.
In the first incident, Adams said he used “inappropriate language” with Huffman in September.
“I apologized,” Adams said. “It was something I said in the heat of the moment. Inappropriate language often comes up in the heat of an investigation. But I was wrong. I apologized four times. I thought that was behind us.”
Adams, his superior at odds
But trouble between Adams and Huffman arose again in recent weeks surrounding the Sept. 13 beating death of bicyclist Mark Loesch in south Minneapolis.
Adams said the man charged with the murder, Donald Jackson, told him and Zimmerman that Loesch had been trying to buy drugs when he was beaten.
“We get that sort of claim all the time,” said Adams, “but there was no reason to believe him. What it does do, is put the suspect at the scene of the crime. We didn’t put that in our report. It would be like having a rapist say that his victim deserved it because she was wearing a short skirt.”
But at a news conference about the case, Huffman did bring up the suspect’s allegation that Loesch was attempting to purchase marijuana.
“One minute, the family was relieved, because we’d arrested the bad guy,” said Adams. “The next minute, they were very unhappy because all of a sudden there were these stories about drugs in the media.”
Dolan said that Huffman had only made the comments about the possibility of drugs being involved in the murder after she had conferred with her superiors in the department, including Dolan.
“It was not a decision that was made lightly,” Dolan said. “In the end, it was decided that the account would have come out sooner or later. If we would have sat on it, people would have been asking, ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.”
Adams said that Huffman had told him before the news conference that she was going to make the possible connection between drugs and Loesch’s death.
“I told her, ‘That’s not right,’ ” he said. “I said, ‘You’re taking a bad guy’s comments and making them public.”‘
This dispute became public in a recent Star Tribune article in which Adams and Zimmerman told a reporter that they had apologized to Loesch’s family for Huffman’s comments.
“The reality is that Charlie told a half-truth in saying there was no evidence that drugs were involved,” said Dolan. “But there’s no evidence that they weren’t involved, either.”
Dolan said he viewed Adams’ comments as undermining Huffman’s authority. Thus, the transfer.
“My feeling is that no one person is bigger than the team,” Dolan said. “We all have to be pulling in the same direction.”
Dolan said he knew the decision to transfer Adams would be controversial.
“But you have to decide whether you back the commander or you back the sergeant,” Dolan said. “Ameila is bright, fair and capable. She deserves my support. It just wasn’t working with the two of them. Charlie had been warned. In the end, it was Charlie who made the choice.”
Dolan said he’s sensitive to the needs of diversity, especially in the homicide department where trust is such a vital issue. Two black officers will be moved into the homicide unit this week, he said, and he hopes to add a third black officer soon.
Meantime, he said the police department, long criticized for its lack of diversity, is growing more diverse with each rookie class.
“We have a higher percentage of people of color in the department that we’ve ever had,” said Dolan. “We have strong relationships in the community and they are going to be stronger.”
The police department says that 18 percent of its personnel are people of color, a historic high. In addition, it says that 32 percent of officers hired in the last year have been people of color.
Meantime, Adams said he’s been gratified by the numbers of calls from his fellow officers, black and white.
“They’re telling me this should not have happened,” he said.