National search for next Bloomington Police Chief starts close to home

Police chief meeting
Bloomington’s Public Safety and Community Relations Board hosted a community feedback session at City of Refuge Church. It’s part of a multi-step process in choosing the next police chief. (Photo by Howard Packowitz/WJBC)

 

By Howard Packowitz

BLOOMINGTON – Bloomington’s next police chief should have thick skin when it comes to taking criticism, and embrace diversity.

Those were traits some members of the public would like to see as City Manager Tim Gleason conducts a national search to replace retiring Chief Clay Wheeler.

The Public Safety and Community Relations Board hosted a public feedback session, and will report back to Gleason who did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting at City of Refuge Church.

The board heard from about 20 people, including local defense lawyer Michael Herzog, who said the chief and the department should not fear criticism.

“By simply asking questions, even challenging police, it doesn’t mean we hate you. It doesn’t mean we have a problem with you. It means, hear us out,” Herzog said.

Participants offered differing views whether the next chief should have local ties or come from outside the Twin-Cities.

Karla Bailey-Smith said the next chief should know a lot about diversity and de-escalation tactics, and be willing to share that knowledge.

“There are other cities in the country that have done both de-escalation and diversity training hand-in-hand, and they have seen results,” Bailey-Smith said.

“I would hope that we could find someone who’s willing to do that,” she added.

The next chief can’t just sit in an office, according to Angelique Racki. She said the chief has to know what various community groups are doing to help young people and others.

“Getting to know those of us who are on the ground, getting to know our youth, finding out what their voices are saying. These are extremely important,” Racki said.

Ravi Duvvuri wants a chief who understands that it’s important for the city council to pass a welcoming city ordinance. He remembered several years ago when police were perceived to have turned a blind eye to a crime spree targeting the Twin-Cities Indian community, in which people lost thousands of dollars worth of precious heirlooms.

“Those interactions add up, and it’s not just illegal immigrants or other people, but just people who are here living peacefully who have no interest in speaking or working with the police,” said Duvvuri.

Finalists for the chief’s job will take part in a community meet-and-greet and face questioning from an internal interview panel.

Gleason is expected to name the new chief this summer.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz@cumulus.com

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