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Chief Olson: "I'm staying"
By Art Hughes
Minnesota Public Radio
April 26, 2002

Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson says he's not going anywhere. In his first public comments since it was revealed Mayor R.T. Rybak wanted him out, Olson says he looks forward to continuing his law enforcement programs in Minneapolis. Olson and Rybak meet face-to-face Friday to clear the air and chart their course for working together following the controversy.

Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson
Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson has apparently survived an attempt by Mayor R.T. Rybak to oust him from his position. The mayor has not gained support from the city council to buy out Olson's contract.
(MPR file photo)

After more than a week and a half of silence on the issue of his future in Minneapolis, Olson confidently says his plans are to stay where he is.

"I have no intention of going anywhere. I love this city. I'm a resident of this town," Olson said. "We've got a lot of good work to do - as you can see what's happening here - and these things have got to continue."

Olson faced reporters at a monthly precinct meeting in the Powderhorn neighborhood, where he was talking about the CODEFOR initiative he introduced four years ago.

The chief's position in Minneapolis seemed in jeopardy when it became public that Rybak asked him to look for another job. But Rybak didn't have the necessary votes on the council to buy out the remaining two years of Olson's contract. Olson says he's ready to put the issue behind him.

"Any personal issues between me and the mayor are between me and the mayor - it's where they rightfully should be and I'd just as soon keep them there," Olson said. "I don't look back. I look forward. And for the sake of all of us we need to make sure the city succeeds. And that means looking forward and working together."

Olson said he has received numerous messages of support.

Mayor Rybak also strikes a conciliatory tone. He says Friday's meeting will be to cut through any awkwardness between him and Olson.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has attempted to remove Police Chief Robert Olson from his job, in response to recent criticism of police brutality. But he has been unable to gain enough support for that move. Rybak says he will now focus on ways he and Olson can work together.
(MPR file photo)

"I think it's obvious we need to have a conversation. I think it's also extremely important we have a period of time where we can just get some of the electricity out of the air, think about how we proceed, and have a cooling-off period," Rybak says.

Council president Paul Ostrow echoed the mayor's sentiment. He says the focus now is on public safety issues such as the use of force by police, and adequate accountability in the department - and not on personalities.

"There are some very important issues that need to be addressed, regardless of who the chief may be. So we really need to focus on those challenges at this point, and how we best address those challenges. I think that's what you'll see both the mayor and the council do in the weeks ahead," Ostrow says.

Publicly, city officials are closing the book on the controversy, but plainly there are still hard feelings in city hall.

City Councilmember Gary Schiff of the 9th Ward bluntly says he believes Olson hoped to profit from the situation. Schiff says Rybak's blunder was to reveal his intention to Olson before securing support with the council.

"He privately raised the question of a buyout with councilmembers as far back as January, and we quietly said we didn't think that was a good budget priority. Then I think he was backed into it when it was leaked to the media. I think that someone was clearly Olson - who I think wanted to be bought out," Schiff saiys.

Olson wouldn't comment on whether he leaked the story. Rybak denies the leak came from the mayor's office.