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Police chief candidate facing opposition from City Council
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William McManus testifies before the Minneapolis City Council (MPR Photo/Art Hughes)
Minneapolis residents heaped praise on police chief nominee William McManus at a public hearing Wednesday. Supporters say his reputation for reform and record of mending community relationships would serve the city well. But it doesn't appear the outpouring has so far swayed additional City Council votes in his favor. Several council members and residents still see a window of opportunity for two internal candidates that applied.

Minneapolis, Minn. — The vast majority of the three dozen people who spoke at the City Council committee hearing enthusiastically supported McManus. They included nearly half of the advisory panel that Mayor R.T. Rybak hand-picked to help with the police chief search process.

One of them was Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis, who says McManus presents a golden opportunity to improve race relations in the city.

"When I participated in the mayor's advisory community and saw a committee that was reflective of the citizenry of this fine city and then I attended the press conference where the mayor introduced his recommendation, it was one of the first times in a long time that I had hope," she said.

Supporters included people of a variety of races and backgrounds, from downtown business leaders to mental health advocates.

Rev. Al Gallman, a former Minneapolis School Board member and former head of the city's NAACP, also served on the mayor's advisory panel. He says the selection process was thorough and the Council should respect the outcome.

"This the first time that I've ever seen in any community two white men who brought the minority community together. And just for that fact, the Council ought to approve it," he said.

McManus is white, which Green Party Councilmember Dean Zimmerman says he considered an obstacle to getting hired here. But Zimmerman says after meeting McManus, he came to the conclusion he was best able to serve populations of color and others who most need improvements in police relations.

"I looked for reasons not to want to support Mr. McManus. And I was so overwhelmed with the evidence of his ability to understand the problems that affect those that are represented by the people in my community," according to Zimmerman.

The two African American councilmembers support McManus. Don Samuels says McManus has a high degree of racial competency.

"Meeting him in person, speaking privately, watching the interview process, observing him afterwards, seeing his values, his profile, his personality, his abilities, that he was the choice," Samuels said.

Such praise prompted one councilmember to ask McManus whether he could walk on water.

But some at the hearing continue to push for Lucy Gerold and Sharon Lubinski, two Minneapolis deputy chiefs who also applied for the job. Their supporters say they are also highly qualified, and both are already familiar with the city and the department.

When asked what he thinks an outside candidate brings, McManus said he believes an outside perspective is best when the goal is to move a police department's culture in a new direction.

"It's tough to be a prophet in your own backyard. You become a victim of your own culture," McManus said.

The comment brought a pointed response by Councilmember Gary Schiff. "To send a message to the incoming employees that no matter how good they are they will never rise to the top is not a very good message to send. It sends the best and the brightest packing."

Councilmember Dan Niziolek agreed and added there's no substantive difference in qualifications between McManus and the two favored internal candidates.

"If we go outside for the sake of going outside, we're sending a strong message. I think we have some of the best candidates we've ever had internally in years," Niziolek said.

The nomination now goes to the full Council for a final vote next week. As it stands, McManus lacks the required number of votes to win approval, but at least two councilmembers say they remain undecided.

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