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Robert K. Olson

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Community Wellness: A New Theory of Policing (Bulletin / Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of American Ethno)
Robert C. Wadman  More Info

About the Minneapolis Police Department

When Minneapolis was incorporated as a city in 1867, the population of 5,000 was a mix of lumbermen, millers and immigrants. Mayor Darilus Morrison appointed H. H. Brackett as the first police chief. Since then, there have been 49 different men who have served as Minneapolis police chief.


The Minneapolis Police Department's duties and responsibilities varied greatly as the city gained in population throughout the last 1800s. By 1889, Minneapolis had grown to be a thriving city of 200,000 with 200 police officers to patrol the 53-square mile city on a budget of $10,972. The city was patrolled primarily by foot beats, with outlying areas of the city covered by horseback. The captain or sergeant was required to stay at the City Hall desk to monitor the newly installed telephone.


With the dawn of the 20th century came new and innovative ways to serve the 300,000 citizens of this industrial city. The first motorcycles began patrolling in 1909, every criminal was now fingerprinted, and telephone lines were greatly extended throughout the Police Department.


The Great Depression-era of the 1930's saw the Police Department heavily involved in quelling labor disputes and battling gangsters and the effects of Prohibition. The infamous Barker-Karpis gang killed two of MPD's finest in a sensational gun battle outside the Third Northwestern National Bank in Northeast Minneapolis. The years during World War II saw 117 MPD officers fight for their country to overthrow the grip of the Axis Powers. The 1950's brought population growth, stability and prosperity. The city's population increased to over 500,000 in 1950 with nearly 600 sworn officers. The "Drunkometer," forerunner of today's intoxilyzer, was first used in 1952.


The 1960's brought change, turmoil and reform. Major riots along Plymouth Avenue resulted in the creation of the Community Relations Division and the Model Cities Precinct in 1970. The 1970's saw increased reliance on federal grants and the first use of mobile digital technology (MDT's) in squad cars.


The 1980's and 1990's saw community-oriented policing evolve from an effort to get closer to the community to today's fully staffed Community Crime Prevention/SAFE Unit. Several national studies were done in Minneapolis, with its officers playing crucial roles.


Today, the Minneapolis Police Department has approximately 800 sworn officers and 300 civilian employees, all of who are fully dedicated to ushering in the 21st century with their commitment to community-oriented policing and the people they serve.




Robert K. Olson began his law enforcement careers in the 1960s.  He has been the chief of police of three departments and in 1995, became the Chief of Police of the Minneapolis Police Department.  Robert K. Olson co-authored Community Wellness: A New Theory of Policing, along with Robert C. Wadman (former chief of the Omaha Police Department).

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