Community meeting

Duluth holds second community meeting in search for police chief

DULUTH, Minn. –

With Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken due to retire next week, the process of finding his replacement is underway.

This includes organizing community meetings to give the public a space to share their thoughts.

A dozen people attended the second such meeting at the Portman Community Center on July 26. That’s more than those who attended the first meeting at the Harrison Community Center on July 20.

At each meeting, people had the chance to speak face-to-face with city and police leaders about the current state of the Duluth Police Department.

“I’ve heard people talk about their very special neighborhood,” said Mayor Emily Larson. “They worry about their neighbors. They talked about some specific concerns and specific examples of how they used and felt safe with the police or needed more information. We’re here to hear people’s truly personal stories about their public safety.

Mayor Larson says most of the people she’s heard from approve of the majority of the police department’s approaches to crime control and public safety. Tuesday’s meeting showed that this is not always the case.

“Tusken did a great job, but there are some areas I would like to see better,” said Mark Brandt. The property manager for the downtown east side locations says he would like to see a greater focus on the drug task force to reduce drug-related crime, as well as a tougher hand when these are people who break the law.

“No more arrests, no more punishments, no more taking the little things seriously,” says Brandt. “Right now, stealing a package from your mail worth less than $500 is a ticket. You can’t be arrested for that. The number of punches given out rather than tickets or handcuffs is beyond me, and I have to pick up the pieces.

Other topics people discussed at Tuesday’s meeting included current crime trends, how officers handle mental health calls, and hiring and retaining officers on the force.

Nominations for the new leader are being accepted until the end of July. Mayor Larson says she won’t consider any of them before the pass application deadline. “I know we’re getting candidates who see and understand this is a really special community, and are ready to continue with that brand of building community trust.”

The next chance the public can get involved in the hiring process will be when the finalists are called in for interviews. This could happen as early as late August, but is expected to happen in September.

Mayor Larson has chosen Deputy Chief Laura Marquardt to replace the interim chief effective August 1. She will hold this position until a permanent chef is hired.