St. Paul Police Chief finalists lay out vision in first public forum

All five finalists for the St. Paul Police Chief job took the stage in St. Paul Tuesday in the first of two public forums.

Mayor Melvin Carter moderated, with most of the questions centered around the national surge in violent crime and police recruitment challenges.

As the finalists sat on stage addressing issues of gun violence, across town in the Frogtown neighborhood police officers were responding to the city’s latest homicide. Preliminary information on the shooting indicated someone was shot near Willard’s Liquors.

All candidates agreed that gun violence was the top challenge facing the city.

Four of the five finalists are internal candidates, coming from within the St. Paul Police Department. One of the candidates, Jacqueline Bailey-Davis, is from the Philadelphia Police Department. All five are licensed peace officers, each bringing more than 20 years of policing experience.

The city is looking for a new police chief, following Todd Axtell’s recent retirement. Upon his departure, Axtell was recognized by Governor Tim Walz as being instrumental in establishing the St. Paul Police Department as a national model for 21st-century policing.

"We are not a department, in my opinion, that needs some drastic sweeping change," said assistant chief Stacy Murphy. "I want to come in as the next chief and continue setting a high bar."

The candidates recognize that the most immediate challenge they will face if they get the job will be recruiting new officers.

"There’s nothing harder on the morale and the desire to do good work in good employees is to be tolerant in poor behavior and poor attitude in others," said Senior Commander Kurt Hallstrom. 

"I think the next chief here has to be a factory floor chief. I think our people need to see that person, they need to be engaged with those people, and they need to explain the why, so they can feel a part of that process," said Commander Axel Henry.

Most candidates highlighting the importance of partnerships with the community.

"It's not us against the community or us against them," said Commander Pamela Barragan. "We have to work together in order to move forward."