Crime and partnerships

University police work closely with Minneapolis police to fight crime, but citizens are the real key

The day following Mayor Rybak’s nomination of Tim Dolan as permanent Minneapolis Police Chief, Tim came to visit me on campus. He understands the increased crime problems of Southeast Minneapolis. Given the chance to restore MPD to adequate staffing levels, he will be providing more police assets to our part of the city.

But the University of Minnesota Police Department and the Minneapolis Police Department are already fully integrated on crime information-sharing citywide, both personally and technologically. Personally, I am a lifetime city resident and a retired 28-year MPD veteran. I work for a fellow city resident, vice president Kathleen O’Brien. She was twice elected the Second Ward Council Member and was for eight years the city coordinator under Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton. As a result, the professional relationships and understanding between the university and the city of Minneapolis around public safety has never been stronger.

We speak to one another. Daily, we review incidents and investigations of common concern and plan common responses. We either pick up the phone or send an -mail to the First or Second Precincts for any needed communication.

Weekly, UMPD receives regular automated crime analysis information, both about the city in general and the campus in particular. Weekly, the University investigative lieutenant attends the Second Precinct CODEFOR crime analysis meeting.

Annually and as needed, we plan for joint responses to anticipated problems, notably party problems or major events (i.e. a hockey championship, a dignitary visit, a protest, etc., on or off campus).

Technologically, UMPD and MPD have shared the same records management system since 1989. This means that as soon as either agency enters a crime or incident it is available to one another.

UMPD leases Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) functionality from the city of Minneapolis, as does Hennepin County ambulances. This means we can see each other’s current and pending 911 assignments. We can also research call histories for investigative or problem-solving purposes.

We have separate but interoperable Dispatch 911 centers (we monitor and broadcast on another’s radio frequencies). Officers of both agencies can have direct voice communication with one another anytime it is needed. That was reiterated as a major shortcoming in both the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Day to day, officers of both agencies have always backed one another up. It is extremely infrequent that Minneapolis police officers are called onto campus. We do periodically request special skills assistance from the Minneapolis Bomb Squad, with hazardous materials. The university has no fire department so the Minneapolis Fire Department is a frequent responder to our on-campus health and safety emergencies.

Given the precipitous decline in MPD resources over the last several years, UMPD has picked up more response to off campus, university area city 911 calls. UMPD has either been asked, volunteers, or comes across situations in their travels between our West Bank, East Bank, and St. Paul campuses that require police attention. UMPD CAD events have increased 24 percent in the last two years, primarily in Minneapolis off-campus neighborhoods.

This past year the formal participation of the university and UMPD with the neighborhood and business associations of Southeast Minneapolis have increased greatly. We are getting the same invitations in St. Paul.

We are happy to be of assistance as we are able. Police calls near campus often involve students as victims and sometimes student behaviors are the problem. Our own resources are, of course, limited and our primary jurisdiction is on the properties owned, leased, or operated by the university.

UMPD has also gained support from President Bruininks’ and O’Brien’s offices for the growth of our department in order to be a more visible presence on campus and a more effective partner in the broader campus community.

However, neither the university nor any municipality can staff and police its way to optimal safety. True partnerships with an organized community are absolutely essential. A demoralized community ceases to look out for their neighbors, call 911, or serve as the eyes and ears of your police department. Policing is no longer just law enforcement. Crime prevention, community organizing, and education are also necessary public safety strategies. They require the ability to take police officers out of the 911 queue; but it takes resources to build those relationships.

More police officers alone will not produce safe neighborhoods. They must also be used wisely in partnership with the community. We know how to do that. Conversely, having only enough officers to respond to 911 calls is a recipe for failure. Fortunately, university and city leadership recognize this. Please hold us accountable, but support us in obtaining the resources at the state and federals levels. We need to serve you at the level you deserve.

Greg Hestness is chief of the University of Minnesota Police Department.

last revised: December 14, 2006