DULUTH – Police Chief Mike Tusken is asking the city to approve a charter change that would create a third deputy chief position to oversee the department's administrative division, which handles tasks such as training and hiring, in response to calls from the community to improve law enforcement in the wake of George Floyd's death.
The new role would be created through internal restructuring and would not increase the number of officers employed by the agency. The Duluth Police Department's 2021 budget is just over $24 million and increased only $1,000 from last year.
Currently, Duluth Deputy Police Chief Laura Marquardt supervises the department's investigative and administrative divisions.
"When we are head-down doing police work, you have to have somebody that's still head-down looking at: What are we doing for training, recruitment and retention?" Tusken said. "What are we doing to keep up on complaints? How do we know we are continuing to do best practices?"
The Duluth agency consists of about 158 sworn officers and 40 civilian staff members. Tusken said about 45 employees are considered part of the administrative division, which includes records and technology staff, license and permit compliance officials, community service officers, animal control and the city's parking services.
Duluth's Charter Commission will consider the proposal at its Wednesday meeting. If approved, the motion to amend the charter — by changing the number of deputy police chiefs allowed from two to three — will go before the City Council for a final vote.
Tusken said he heard "loud and clear" from Duluth residents asking for increased accountability for local officers after Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police.
"I think creating this executive leadership position for oversight shows it's important," he said.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said she supports Tusken's effort, calling the Police Department "ahead of the curve in many ways," referencing the agency's body camera policy and longstanding ban on chokeholds.
Dozens of residents spoke at City Council meetings or e-mailed officials during the summer and fall urging them to remove police funding and invest it in social services, but the movement did not pick up steam among Duluth's elected leaders.
"I think the more we can expand efficiently how we're both reflecting and engaging in the community, the more we can train around the values that are important to the community members that are speaking to us about worries," Larson said.
Katie Galioto • 612-673-4478