Updated Mar 16, 2022 - News

St. Paul seeks police chief with big city experience

Illustration of a "hello my name is..." sticker shaped like a police badge.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

St. Paul is set to finalize its job description for the city's next police chief.

Why it matters: The list of minimum qualifications for the top cop in Minnesota's second-largest city, which was on Wednesday's City Council agenda, will shape the search for outgoing chief Todd Axtell's successor.

  • The transition comes at a critical time for both addressing crime rates and improving police-community relations.

Driving the wish list: Experience in an "urban policing" leadership role, such as chief or deputy chief, in "a metropolitan area with at least 200,000 residents receiving direct service from that agency," per an amended draft ordinance.

  • The city is also looking for someone with a "proven record of success working in a racially diverse community and developing strong labor- management collaboration."

Between the lines: While the city plans to conduct a national search, Council President Amy Brendmoen told KARE11 earlier this month that there are "great candidates" in St. Paul who could "be leading contenders" for the job.

Of note: An earlier draft sought candidates who had overseen sworn forces of at least 500 officers, a bar that would've ruled out leaders of all other Minnesota law enforcements except Minneapolis and the State Patrol, per state police licensing data.

  • An amendment changing the requirement to reflect city population, versus size of the police force, cleared the council Wednesday.

Of note: Minneapolis recently hired a recruiting firm to lead its own parallel search for a leader to succeed retired chief Medaria Arradondo.

The timeline: Axtell, whose term officially ends May 10, plans to leave the role sometime in June, a spokesperson confirmed.

  • Several council members have expressed concerns that the city won't be able to find and name someone to a six-year term by the time he departs.

What's next: The council needs to hold another public hearing before giving the document final approval.

  • A search firm and citizen committee will review candidates and recommend five finalists to Mayor Melvin Carter.
  • Applications to serve on that community advisory panel are open through March 24.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add details about an amendment to the ordinance approved Wednesday.


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