There are two candidates for Ramsey County Sheriff: Jack Serier, who’s the incumbent but fairly new to the job, and Bob Fletcher, who was the Ramsey County Sheriff from 1994 to 2011.
Jack was appointed when Matt Bostrom, the Sheriff who I think kicked Bob Fletcher out in 2011, quit to do something else. This is the first time he’s run, and he hasn’t been doing the job for very long. The worst thing I found was a City Pages article (hit piece, really — it’s genuinely unfair on a number of levels) that questions his competence. In particular, the Ramsey County jail sounds like it had a lot of problems with staffing. To what extent this is actually Serier’s fault and not a problem he inherited from Bostrom is unclear to me? I’ll note that Serier’s website talks about getting funding to hire enough people in 2017 as one of his major accomplishments. (The Twin Cities has a huge labor shortage and I wonder if they weren’t offering enough money to actually get people to come work for them. The bus company has signs all over offering almost $20/hour for new drivers and very few bus drivers get shanked.)
The big scandal of the last year was that possibly Serier was not yet living in Ramsey County when he got appointed. Fletcher (his opponent) filed the complaint. I am not sure why I’d care about this. Apparently he also said he didn’t think terrorism was a particularly major risk in St. Paul. (I’m not sure who runs that site, but hey look, it’s Bob Fletcher asking him about terrorism. Also, terrorism is not a particularly major risk in St. Paul. Fletcher’s framing of the question is worrying to me on its own.)
Serier is endorsed by the DFL, a bunch of unions, John Choi (the Ramsey County Attorney), Betty McCollum, Melvin Carter (not the mayor — his father, a retired police officer), and retired City Council rep Dave Thune, whose name will be turning up again shortly in a super different context. (Also a whole lot of other people.)
Bob Fletcher is a really interesting piece of work. This article (also from the City Pages) hits a bunch of highlights. Here are two things that once I read them, I thought, “wait, he was involved with that?”
- The Metro Gang Strike Force. Created by the legislature, but he was heavily involved in setting it up and running it. And he was still vehemently defending it in 2009 (in the article linked above): “Someone should probably report on the fact that for the 12 years it’s been around, the Strike Force has arrested 700 gangsters and their associates every year….They’ve recovered hundreds and hundreds of guns off the street. I mean, they’re good cops.” In fact, by the time it was disbanded, the Metro Gang Strike Force was synonymous with law enforcement at its most brutal and corrupt. Mike Freeman wound up filing no criminal charges at all. It was probably harder to prove wrongdoing given the massive shredding operation that took place when they heard they were under scrutiny. Fletcher did not run the Metro Gang Strike Force, but he lobbied for it, helped set it up, got a friend put in charge, and it was widely viewed as his baby.
- The RNC 8. Back in 2008, when the Republican National Convention was held in St. Paul, Fletcher was the one who busted this group of alleged terrorists. I specifically remember the claim that they’d been stockpiling their own pee for use as a weapon; the buckets turned out to have water in them. I remember being pretty appalled at the general disrespect for civil rights. I’d forgotten that there was also a small riot that they failed to break up because of inability to communicate across departments.
Fletcher was also accused of demoting people who supported his political opponents. When I asked about him on Twitter, I was told that someone’s spouse, who worked for him, was required to campaign for him on the clock. Also, Scott Dibble chimed in to tell me that all the way back in 1991, Fletcher helped organize a group called Citizen’s Alert, which campaigned to repeal the just-passed St. Paul civil rights ordinance protecting the rights of LGBT citizens.
MPR has two archive audio pieces online about this. From the day before the vote, and then after the supporters of the ordinance won. Dave Thune was mentioned in one of these as the City Council rep who’d shepherded the ordinance through. There’s a brief mention in the second piece of the fact that people came out to vote in the snow — this was right after the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991, so there was a lot of snow, although apparently by Monday, November 4th, everything had re-opened and the roads were passable. Anyway, there’s general agreement that the fight is probably done for a while, and in fact, Minnesota added LGBT people to the state Human Rights Act in 1993.
Anyway, there are a whole lot of reasons to vote against Fletcher and for Serier. I am endorsing Jack Serier, and will be voting for him in November.