Commissioner Lunde Urges Better Communication from County Attorney to Police Chiefs
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Lunde spoke with CCX News on a variety of topics, including the Hennepin County Sheriff’s DWI crash, police chiefs urging the Hennepin County Attorney to revisit policies, and why he’s concerned about this summer.
Lunde urges sheriff to resign
Hennepin County Commissioners Jeff Lunde, who represents District 1, and Irene Fernando, of District 2, have called on Hennepin County Sheriff Dave Hutchinson to resign. Three other commissioners have also called for Hutchinson to resign, but Commissioner Kevin Anderson, who represents Maple Grove in District 7, has not.
“We think it would be in the best interest of public safety, interests of communities, countywide if we think the sheriff resigned and allowed for us to move forward,” said Lunde Thursday in an interview with CCX News.
Hutchinson was arrested last December after he crashed his county-owned vehicle near Alexandria. Toxicology results showed the sheriff had a blood alcohol content of .13, higher than the legal limit of .08. The matter was compounded when a search warrant application revealed the sheriff initially lied about driving his wrecked squad. He said he called a cab and the cab driver used his vehicle, the affidavit states. Hutchinson later admitted he was alone in the vehicle.
So far, Hutchinson hasn’t said he’ll step down, but instead will seek treatment.
Commissioner Lunde says police are facing enough challenges and the sheriff matter isn’t helping.
“Right now we have a challenge building trust between law enforcement and the community and I think this is really taking wind out of the sails of that effort,” he said.
Lunde: “Lack of Communication” from County Attorney to Police Chiefs
Also consuming headlines this week are letters and statements directed to Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. That includes the Hennepin County Chiefs of Police Association, led by Crystal Police Chief Stephanie Revering. The letter urges the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office to revisit policies that they believe have contributed to a rise in violent crime, including not requesting bail for 19 felony crimes, including car theft. You can view the full letter here.
Lunde said including car theft caught his attention.
“When I got elected, County Attorney Freeman released those bail things, and I was kind of like, ‘okay, okay, okay,’ and then I got to car theft, and I was like ‘oooh, wait a minute.’ Because car theft is a gateway crime. So people steal a car to carjack a car. No one uses their own car to go carjack. They steal a car to do it. They steal a car to push in garage doors. They steal a car to commit other crimes,” Lunde said.
Not helping matters is what Lunde says is “a lack of communication” from the attorney’s office to police chiefs.
He also feels the six northwest suburbs he serves were slighted in the prosecution of certain crimes. He pointed out that it was only after a high-profile case in Edina that the attorney’s office assigned two prosecutors to carjackings.
“I have to tell you I was a little offended because I’ve got lots of community members who suffered through much worse and much more frequency who didn’t get a special prosecutor. I think that sent the wrong message,” said Lunde.
A focus on summer
Lunde is also focused on this summer, not wanting a repeat of the crime surge that happened the previous two summers.
He says the county plans to issue small grants to places like churches and community clubs to help provide opportunities for youth.
“There are kids who won’t get in trouble if we give them something to do. That’s something we did in Brooklyn Park,” said Lunde, referring to his time as mayor in that city.
While Brooklyn Park also invested in youth programming, he says the city also invested in the police department.
“If someone gets arrested for a violent crime, they need to face the full weight of the system,” he said.