Hennepin County police chiefs ask county attorney for more accountability

Crystal, Minn. Police Chief Stephanie Revering (center) and other Hennepin County police chiefs spoke with FOX 9 on rising crime over the summer. (FOX 9)

Police chiefs across Hennepin County are joining some mayors in asking the county attorney’s office to be more aggressive in prosecuting suspects as violent crime continues to rise.

Letter from the police chiefs

The Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association sent a letter Wednesday, January 5 to the county’s attorney Mike Freeman, requesting the reevaluation of several aspects of crime cases.

"As we have shared with you in the past, we believe law enforcement officers throughout the county are working hard at violent criminal apprehension, but we feel those criminals are consistently not being held accountable for their actions after they are arrested," Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering wrote on behalf of the association.

The police chiefs association asked Freeman to help and assist in the following areas to stop the increasing crime:

  • Aggressive prosecution: Police chiefs say officers have worked to arrest suspects involved in violent crime, and the "continued trend of not charging these cases, many involving guns and illicit drugs, needs to be urgently reevaluated."
  • Bail reform: The letter asks that adult and juvenile offenders in violent crimes should be required to see a judge for review and decisions about proper bail. Police chiefs say "crimes of auto theft and possession of stolen autos" should also be included in this requirement.
  • Warrants: The letter requests the county to stop the use of "sign and release" warrants, which allow those who have missed past court dates for low-level offenses to sign and recognize their upcoming court date, then be released rather than taken into custody. The chiefs argue, "To expect that these individuals will comply with another of the same order continues to prove not effective in holding people accountable for their crimes."
  • Juvenile Detention Center: The association says the admission criteria for the Juvenile Detention Center is "very restrictive," leaving law enforcement to immediately release repeat juvenile offenders.
  • Respect for law enforcement: The letter asks the county attorney’s office to support the work of law enforcement officers, pointing out that there are a "large number of officer-involved critical incidents that have been investigated and are sitting in your office waiting for charging decisions." The police chiefs write that Freeman’s public comments do not "speak to" his support of law enforcement, nor do they "set a foundation" in which suspects being arrested "are going to respect the officers."

The Hennepin County police chiefs are planning to meet with Freeman to discuss these issues next week on January 12, according to the letter.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman provided the following statement to FOX 9 on Thursday afternoon:

I hear and understand the concerns being raised by city leaders and police chiefs. Over the past three weeks, I have reached out to the police chiefs and mayors throughout Hennepin County. I have reiterated my commitment to partnering and collaborating with them to address the increase in crime impacting our county. My office’s priority remains focused on supporting the victims of these crimes and the impact of these crimes on the safety of our neighborhoods. We are charging and prosecuting both juveniles and adults to the fullest extent of the law.  Our practice has always been to focus our limited resources on the most violent crimes first and that is what we are doing.

Violent crime in Hennepin County requires that we work now as partners and attack it together. Accordingly, I will be meeting with mayors and police chiefs again next week. We have been and will continue to work with our criminal justice partners to address the increased crime and to develop focused prevention strategies.

Letter from the mayors

Mayors from Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Hopkins, Maple Grove, Minnetonka, New Hope, Plymouth wrote to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman expressing concerns in the increase of crime in the metro area. The letter is dated January 4, but the county attorney's office tells FOX 9 it was received Thursday morning.

The mayors say there is a "sense of lawlessness and lack of accountability" for suspects involved in criminal cases and urge the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to partner with city officials and police chiefs to address these issues.

"We support reform in the criminal justice systems. However, the safety of our communities cannot be jeopardized in the process," the mayors wrote. "Decisions to not prosecute serious crimes sends important messages to both perpetrators and our residents."

Regarding the rise in carjackings, the mayors say they appreciate Freeman's efforts to aggressively prosecute these cases, however, they are requesting the county attorney do more.

"We specifically request that you review the policy changes your office has taken regarding the posting of bail and the prosecution of crimes in Hennepin County."


Shared concerns

The letter from the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association echos shared concerns from city leaders on the county's violent crime.

Last week, Minnetonka mayor Brad Wiersum called for better prosecution of non-violent property crimes.

In December, Plymouth mayor Jeff Wosje called on Freeman to collaborate on crime prevention and prosecution. This came shortly after mayors, city managers and police chiefs from Edina, Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Plymouth met to discuss the recent increase in property and vehicle-related crimes in the metro.

One of the goals established by the southwest metro coalition is "strengthening partnerships with law enforcement and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, with the goal of changing policies which have led to an increase in vehicle-related crimes in our cities."

Police chiefs from Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Maple Grove, Plymouth, and New Hope, spoke with FOX 9 in July about the increased gun violence they are seeing in their communities.