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Monday, March 20, 2023

St. Paul mayor names Cmdr. Axel Henry to be next police chief

Axel Henry didn’t have a future in law enforcement in mind when he received his diploma from St. Paul’s Central Senior High School in 1987.

After enrolling at the University of St. Thomas to study accounting and business administration, he was hired to drive a truck for St. Paul Parks and Recreation.

But he claimed he quickly came to the realization that “I wanted to serve something larger than myself.”

The mayor of St. Paul, Melvin Carter, named Henry as his choice for the position of the city’s next police chief on Tuesday. Henry has been a police officer in the city for 24 years, ascending through the ranks.

“Cmdr. Henry has received widespread support from both our officers and citizens due to his extensive patrol and command expertise, lifetime of service to St. Paul, and forward-thinking attitude to safety, according to Carter. He is the ideal choice to head our well respected police force in the country.

Carter acknowledged that making a decision among such strong finalists was challenging, but he listed a few factors that went in favor of Henry, including his ties to St. Paul, his lengthy service to the community, his command and budgeting experience in the police department, his emphasis on data, and “his forward-thinking approach to public safety.”

Henry, 54, grew up in the Macalester-Groveland area of St. Paul. He went to Murray Middle School, Webster Magnet School, Groveland Park Elementary School, and Central High School.

Henry said that his mother “was not involved… My father raised us all by himself until I was 11 years old. His father was a Macalester College English professor.

According to Henry, St. Paul and its residents “actually… reared me.” All throughout my childhood, I had adopted mother figures, and I still value them greatly now.

From 1995 through 1998, Henry worked as a Roseville police officer. From 1998 to 2006, he worked as a patrol officer for St. Paul, and from 2007 to 2010, he was a sergeant in investigations and patrol. His subsequent responsibilities included managing the family and sexual violence section as well as the Eastern District of the police department.

I’ve had the chance to work in almost all of the St. Paul assignments available, and I’ve learned from each one, Henry remarked.

The Blueprint for Safety program, which is a coordinated response to domestic violence, was created and led by him. He also served as the logistics chief for the police department’s emergency response at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Carter. He also initiated the department’s body-worn camera program. As a trainer and authority on the use of force, he has more than 20 years of expertise.

For his master’s in educational leadership and administration, he later returned to St. Thomas.

With Mikeya Griffin, he resides in Little Bohemia, a section of St. Paul off West Seventh Street. Griffin is the executive director of Rondo Community Land Trust, which offers low- to moderate-income residents of St. Paul and Ramsey County affordable housing and inexpensive business options.

Griffin’s work is “vital to the overall safety and strategy of our community,” Henry said.

She is the foundation of what keeps me together, he declared.

The key objective, according to Carter, is to “keep our community secure,” he stated on Tuesday.

As we stand at the confluence of both a post-pandemic surge in violent crime and a post-George Floyd increase in demands for a new form of policing, he added, “The entire public safety infrastructure that we’re constructing here in St. Paul is very vital.” Our St. Paul Police Department has always been at the forefront of that effort, and our St. Paul Police Department will always be at the forefront of that work.

Henry stated in his application for the position of chief that combating gun violence “is an immediate concern that must be tackled without delay.”

The next CEO will need to place a strong premium on retaining and attracting qualified applicants who reflect our community, he wrote. “This must be done to guarantee that the department has the resources to engage successfully in the city’s Community First Public Safety policy and assist and work with the newly established Office of Neighborhood Safety,” the statement continued.

In his career, Henry claimed to have sought to concentrate on change management.

It’s simply telling versus selling, he added, and there is a distinction between transactional leadership and transformative leadership. “We attempt to market our employees. We want staff members that are committed to the mission rather than those who simply follow directions.

Henry said that becoming St. Paul’s police chief, not only “a chief,” was his ultimate objective.

He stated of the police force, “As excellent as we are now, we can always be better.”

Carter’s choice of Henry must be approved by the city council, which is anticipated to do so on November 16. He would take the oath of office that day, starting his six-year term on November 19.

Police officers, city employees, and representatives of the local community were all present in the city hall foyer when Carter made the news on Tuesday.

According to B Kyle, president and CEO of the St. Paul Area Chamber, St. Paul “faces very genuine difficulties in terms of public safety.”

Kyle, a member of the police chief selection committee, said Henry, a longtime member of the St. Paul Police Department and a native of the city, “understands the subtleties of our town and the difficulties we are experiencing.”

After following a six-year tenure, police chief Todd Axtell announced his retirement in June. Jeremy Ellison did not apply for the permanent position; he is already serving as temporary chief.

The requirements for the position were satisfied by 18 applicants. Carter conducted interviews with the top five candidates after a community-based examination committee trimmed the list. Henry, Cmdr. Pamela Barragan, Senior Cmdr. Kurt Hallstrom, and Assistant Chief Stacy Murphy were the four internal candidates that made the finals. Jacqueline Bailey-Davis, a police staff inspector with the Philadelphia police, was the fifth candidate.

Police commanders in St. Paul have often advanced through the ranks of the force. According to the St. Paul Police Historical Society, the last time a chief wasn’t elected from inside the St. Paul police force was in the 1930s.

Cedric Blackwater
Cedric Blackwater
Cedric is a journalist with over a decade of experience reporting on local US news, and touching on many global topics. He is currently the lead writer for Bulletin News.

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