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Minneapolis mayoral candidate Tom Hoch wants a 'top-to-bottom review' of the city's police department

Minneapolis mayoral candidate Tom Hoch
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Minneapolis mayoral candidate Tom Hoch: “Who’s setting the tone for the culture in the police department? We need to find that out.”

On many of the issues facing the city of Minneapolis and its police department, mayoral candidate Tom Hoch says he is taking a systematic approach. That is, he wants the opportunity to assess the police department — to see what is working and what isn’t — once he takes office.

“I’m not the mayor,” the former head of the Hennepin Theatre Trust said during an interview on policing and crime this week. “But the first thing I’ll do as mayor is a top-to-bottom review of the police department to identify where we’re doing well and where we’re not doing well. What needs to be fixed and how we’ll go about fixing it.”

But on one issue, Hoch needs no more time for study: He doesn’t think the city should amend its charter — as some council members have suggested — to give the City Council more say over the operations of the police department.

“No,” Hoch said. “There’s a pretty clear line in the sand with me on that one.”

Minneapolis has diffused power between the mayor and the council who share oversight of a city coordinator. But the mayor retains direct control over public safety once the council appoints the mayor’s nominee for police chief. 

After the shooting of Justine Damond by a Minneapolis police officer, Council Member Andrew Johnson suggested the council have more say in police operations.

Hoch thinks that’s a bad idea. “We can’t have a police chief who is running a police department who is trying to chase every whim of a council member,” he said. “It’s completely inconsistent with the command structure a police department needs to have. Who’s accountable then?”

Culture problems — or a lack of supervision?

Among the things that Hoch said he would want to assess is culture — whether the MPD has a toxic culture that is immune to reform, as some have accused. “Organizations do develop cultures, that’s for sure,” he said. “Who’s setting the tone for the culture in the police department? We need to find that out.”

Wasn’t the recent audit of the police use of body-worn cameras, which showed the low usage of cameras by officers, evidence of a bias against reform? “I don’t think you can just say that’s a cultural thing,” Hock said. “It may show up as that, but that seems to be a problem with supervision and accountability.”

It could be that a patrol officer who is promoted doesn’t necessarily know how to manage and supervise, he said. “If there are policies on the beat that were never enforced, that’s the story you take with you, sort of the lore of the police department that policies are just recommendations. But if nobody has ever broken the cycle, it wouldn’t surprise me that that’s the story inside.”

Hoch said he has had good experiences with new Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, leading back to when Hoch was the deputy director of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority and Arradondo was assigned to the MPHA. Arradondo also was the inspector of the department’s 1st Precinct, covering downtown Minneapolis, when Hoch was running the Hennepin Theater Trust.

“I’ve had a very positive impression of Rondo,” Hoch said, using the chief’s nickname, “and I want him to succeed; I hope that he succeeds.”

But Hoch said he would use the first six months in office to evaluate the chief to “see if I believe his is capable of carrying out my directives.” Arradondo’s term as chief expires one year into the next mayor’s term when he can be removed or nominated for a second term, subject to City Council approval.

Hoch said he would like some in the next level of department management to come from outside the department. So far, Arradondo’s selections have all been department veterans. After saying that he isn’t passing judgment on those appointees, Hoch said: “I don’t know if we can have the next layer down be all representatives of the police department if we’re looking for cultural change. If we want a cultural change and we’ve had individuals who have spent their entire career in the department, that doesn’t seem like a dynamic that will support change.”

‘When someone is breaking the law, there have to be consequences’

Hoch responded to a question about accusations that the department’s officers are too quick to use excessive force with another question: “Do we have the right level of training for critical incidents?”

“Anytime we have individuals [officers] who are armed, our obligation is to make sure they have the level of training that they need. If it requires 40 hours of training rather than eight or 16, if we don’t have individuals who are the best qualified to do the training, we’re going to see it show up in a lot of unintended ways — unfortunate ways.”

Hoch lamented the growth in gun violence in the city, especially in north Minneapolis and, increasingly, in parts of downtown. He said his response would be multipronged, including law enforcement as well as a social services response.

“We’ve been talking about the police department but there is a whole range of things that go on there in terms of diversion, education, employment,” he said. “That’s why I talk about employment all the time because we need to create choices for people. Because if there aren’t really choices and someone picks up a gun, then we have to deal with that.”

But Hoch quickly added that criminal activity must be met with a law enforcement response. “Nothing undermines safety and security of a neighborhood more than the notion that people can do whatever they want in the neighborhood and there are no repercussions for that. Do we have a whole suite of ways to provide employment and training and education? Absolutely. But when someone is breaking the law, there have to consequences.”

Addressing downtown safety 

Hoch has special knowledge of downtown crime issues, having spent 17 years as president of the theater trust, which owns and operates three historic theaters on Hennepin Avenue. Last year, he also was chair of the Minneapolis Downtown Council. “I’m the candidate who has actually worked downtown for many years,” he said. “I’ve dealt with patrons coming to the theater. I’ve been on the Downtown Council. So I have an understanding of the way an unsafe environment impacts business."

“Sometimes it’s perception,” he said of safety concerns. “But increasingly it seems to be reality that’s driving that perception.”

“It isn’t solely criminal justice,” Hoch said. “Some people are there because they don’t have any place else to be. They don’t have any money. They don’t have anyplace to go and Hennepin and 1st seem like relatively safe destinations. But it doesn’t make the space feel safe.”

He said he would bring in the business community, social service agencies as well as representatives from city, county and state governments to come up with ideas. Hoch was instrumental in creating a program called “5 to 10 on Hennepin” which tried to provide activities once a week including a music stage, chess tables, artist tables, a children’s play area. “How do we engage individuals so they continue to feel safe and everybody feels welcome?” he asked.

Some who populate Hennepin aren’t there with good intentions, Hoch acknowledges. He said on the nights when “5 to 10” was active, it was easier to identify those people and gave police the opportunity to intervene in actual lawbreaking rather than simply move people around and along.

Hoch was critical of a downtown safety initiative launched by Mayor Betsy Hodges along with the Downtown Council, the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and YouthLink. Unveiled in the spring, the plan called for increasing police presence on Hennepin as well enhancing the number of Downtown Improvement District Ambassadors who engage people who frequent the streets. Hoch was among those who asked the city to act. “I helped draft the letter that went to her office because property owners, business owners, were coming to me because they were so frustrated with the city,” he said.

“Has it worked?” he asked of the plan. “You can have all the plans in the world but if they aren’t effective, you have to change them up. You have to stay on it. You have to be intentional about resolving the issue.”

A related issue surrounds late night in the Warehouse District, especially at bar closing time. “Late night drives a lot of the perception of downtown and whether or not it’s safe,” Hoch said.

He said he would be willing to extend bar closing hours or even eliminate them in order to spread out the time of departure of bar patrons. He supports changing ordinances to allow food trucks to operate later in certain parts of downtown and said the city should look at providing reasons for people to be in the district earlier in the evening “so they’re not showing up at midnight to get into a bar until 2. They’re not really ready to go home yet so they’re hanging out around downtown.”

Hoch said he discovered during his frequent meetings with voters around the city that downtown safety is an issue everywhere. “It doesn’t matter what living room I’m standing in, in what part of the city,” he said. “The same issue of safety downtown rears its head. That was a little bit of a surprise to me. It reminded me that people don’t have a tolerance for a lack of safety and they will stay away from a place that feels unsafe.”

Hoch said he has talked to “more than one employer” who said they are waiting for the downtown leases to expire so they can leave the core. “That’s unacceptable,” he said. “We can’t survive as a downtown if businesses are fleeing.”

But he also acknowledged that other businesses have chosen to move downtown, and mentioned the new Mayo Clinic as an example. “So, do we have a responsibility to reinforce the notion that they made the right decision?” he asked.

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Comments (10)

Whoa!

A top-to-bottom review? Bold stance, man. Really going out there.

big dividends

I think if Hennepin and the arts/entertainment district could be cleaned up, it would benefit the whole city in all sorts of ways. As it is today, a whole lot of people are going home thinking that maybe Fox News is right and big cities are just cesspools to be written off and avoided.

There's only one way this change can happen, and unfortunately, it's by tough and traditional policing with follow-up on charges. Nothing else will have any significant impact any time soon. I don't know if Tom Hoch has any answers that haven't already been tried but at least he's focused on the problem and is honest about its dimensions.

I agree...

"“It doesn’t matter what living room I’m standing in, in what part of the city,” he said. “The same issue of safety downtown rears its head. That was a little bit of a surprise to me. It reminded me that people don’t have a tolerance for a lack of safety and they will stay away from a place that feels unsafe.”

And he is not spending anytime in the suburban living rooms of valuable and needed downtown patrons who will also say the same thing.

I think Mr Hoch, given his Hennepin Theater Trust time is probably the best candidate to deal with the problem and even he seems reluctant to share or does not have a comprehensive solution to the problem and so we get "a top down study". The elephant in the room for all of these liberal candidates is that the one best example of solving this problem is, gasp, Rudy Guliani's clean up of New York upon his election as mayor.

Lot's of cops on the street with low tolerance for pan handling, public urination, drunkenness, gang crowds, etc... Not exactly every liberal's campaign platform....

Nonsense

Guliani was a relentless self-promoter, not a good mayor. His record on crime wasn't better than any other big-city mayor who governed during a time of declining urban crime. But he did violate civil rights and foster a climate of racism. Absolutely the last thing Minneapolis or any other city needs.

I agree...

On your description of Guliani. Fortunately, or unfortunately, perception is reality and the perception of spending time in NYC from a crime and safety perspective did change dramatically during his early time in office:

""Violent crime in New York began to turn in 1990, but polls found most New Yorkers didn't feel it. They were receptive in 1993 to Giuliani's campaign promises to hire more cops and target not just the murder but the mayhem.

When he took office in 1994, Giuliani kept his word. Over the next eight years, the NYPD grew from 28,000 officers to 40,000. He hired William Bratton, a Broken Windows disciple who cracked down on graffiti, fare-jumping and other minor offenses in the city's transit system. Crime in the subways dropped about 27 percent.

Bratton and a deputy commissioner, the late Jack Maple, also developed what Giuliani later called the crown jewel of his administration: CompStat.

Before Bratton, crime statistics were compiled downtown, and then largely shelved. Bratton invested in new computers that allowed the department to track crimes weekly. Precinct commanders, on the hook for crime rates in their sectors, had the latitude to try new tactics.

"The precinct commander would have known his stats for the week, and the people downtown would know the stats. So when they had these weekly meetings, they were more or less discussing crime in real time," said Dennis C. Smith, a professor at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service who has studied CompStat since its inception. "That was transformative.""

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2007/sep/01/how-much-cre...

Gee let's put on a show

Seems to me that it would be important to examine the prior "top to bottom" reviews of the police department and its function before suggesting another investigation. Things that sell well in living rooms aren't always the most appropriate policies to implement.

For example, the commentators here mention downtown's discomfort with crimes like loitering. yet those are infractions removed from the books by the City Council because citizens proved that their enforcement led to significant racial inequity in policing.

One of the biggest challenges faced by elected officials is balancing the demands of multiple constituencies. My hope is that in his next interview Mr Hoch will explain how he will meet the conflicting needs and constituencies around public safety.

Not qualified

So he's saying that as soon as he is elected he'll start figuring things out?

It makes me wonder where else this logic could work . . .

"I don't know how to drive a bus, but give me the keys to this one we're on, and I'll definitely look into figuring it out"

"I've never studied structural engineering, but if you give me the money to build your house, I'll certainly start trying to learn"

"I've never done open-heart bypass surgery, but I've been in the office next door for 17 years. Just go to sleep and everything will be fine. Trust me, I've hired actors who've played doctors"

please not Guliani

I think Guliani's "cleanup of New York" is mostly a myth, and that crime has reduced for other reasons. Guliani IMHO is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But he wasn't all bad by any means. His bit about getting rid of the "squeegee guys" totally resonated with me - it's exactly that sort of obnoxiousness and intimidation that is now poisoning cities and their images. Actual violent crime is getting rarer, but loud in-your-face profanity is a form of assault too.

Top Bottom Down Reivew

Actually, Representative Ray Dehn worked as an architect in downtown Minneapolis for a number of years, so Mr. Hoch is not correct about that particular detail. Ray lives in North, but he also represents downtown Minneapolis. He is my representative and he is very aware of what happens there. I live in Downtown East, Elliott Park and we not have a whole lot of problem with the bars here because we just have the hotels here, so no one wanders too far from the site. Crime is really happening more in connection with the bars. That means the bar owners need to do a better job of taking care of their bar's policing. People need to call in about particular bars to the city, so they know if the bars are doing their part here. If they are not, then they should not have a license. This needs to improve, in my opinion. Many of the ideas Mr. Hoch discussed were presented by a number of candidates. In fact Rep. Ray Dehn has a very detail position paper on his website on the issue, where he defines the problem and goes into depth with a systems approach to the solutions. He does take a collaborative approach and wants community ideas on solutions, too. As a trained social worker, I am very aware of the systems approach to social problems. A holistic approach is what is needed to solving many problems the city faces. It will take a very intensive approach in many areas, not just the police department if these problems are solved.

What is working/not working.

The one thing we resident owners see is that there is little support for enforcement of existing laws and ordinances coming out of the Hodges administration. We really do not need more reviews as to what is not working. We have those ad nauseum. What we need is active engagement of issues with enforcement as the final consequence, when necessary. This is not taking place, and the officers I have spoken with feel unsupported by the political entity now in place. Another review is not needed. Let the police enforce the laws, and engage the issues as they arise. I personally am tired of the word "tolerance" being used to demand I eat the garbage behaviors foisted upon my neighborhood. The real problems stem from the tremendous amount of absent ownership of properties in my north neighborhood, the very high number of sex offenders and the plethora of "kickers" who work the underground economy and trash the properties.