Rich Stanek’s Personal History
Rich has lived in Hennepin County, Minnesota for his entire life. He lives in Maple Grove with his wife of 31 years, and their two children.
As a boy, Rich lived in Nordeast, Minneapolis where the police officers from the Minneapolis Police Department became role models for him and other kids growing up in a tough neighborhood. Rich grew up with his six siblings in a second generation Polish-American family. Rich’s father was a World War II hero and postal worker. He lived next door to a police officer whose dedication to service and community inspired Rich to become a police officer.
Rich earned his way through college at the University of Minnesota, and got his first job as a Minnesota licensed police officer in 1984.
Rich worked as a street cop for decades. In 1986 while working as a Patrol Officer in North Minneapolis and taking 911 calls, he started the Minneapolis Police Athletic League (a police volunteer program for at-risk kids, providing positive role-modeling and mentorship). He worked double duty, taking tough shifts to also earn his Masters Degree in Public Administration from Hamline University in 1989, and to serve as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives from Maple Grove for 9 years. He chaired the House Crime and Public Safety Committee for 6 years, and was then appointed by the Governor as Minnesota’s Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety and Director of Homeland Security.
From 2004-2006, Rich returned to active police duty, and experienced first-hand how neighborhoods in Minneapolis had deteriorated: gangs, drugs, guns and murder. As Commander of Criminal Investigations for the Minneapolis Police Department, he responded to nearly every homicide scene in Minneapolis in those years, and led 38 murder investigations just in the first half of 2006. He was also responsible for the investigations of other violent crimes: rape, assault, and robbery.
Violent crime was so bad in Minneapolis, The Weekly Standard called it “The Return to Murderapolis.” The gangs returned first to Minneapolis North and South residential neighborhoods and then expanded to the streets of downtown. Our businesses asked for help, but were told to hire private security guards. The Minneapolis Police Department couldn’t respond to all the calls for assistance. Once again, Minneapolis had become one of the most dangerous cities in the nation.
That’s when Rich Stanek first ran for Sheriff, and he made five promises to the voters of Hennepin County:
- Rich promised to bring the resources of the Sheriff’s Office to the fight against violent crime in Hennepin County –that we would bring Deputies, Analysts, Crime Lab Technicians, and Detectives out of the office and to the daily work of policing, preventing and intervening in criminal conduct in neighborhoods throughout the County. It hasn’t been an easy transition, but it has made a big difference! Since Rich was first elected, violent crime in Hennepin County is down 36%.
- Rich promised to bring the resources of the Sheriff’s Office to combat the lethal combination of guns, gangs, kids, and drugs that threaten to destroy lives and families and neighborhoods. The Agency has taken on initiatives to collect unwanted prescription drugs, alert residents to the growing heroin epidemic, to combat human trafficking, to educate community leaders and elected officials at all levels of government about countering violent extremism and the alarming link between mass shootings and untreated mental illness.
- Rich promised to engage diverse communities, seek resident input, and build lasting and innovative partnerships across the County to strengthen the public safety fabric –to foster trusting relationships with the people he is sworn to serve and protect. The Sheriff’s Community Engagement Team, Citizens Academies and Community Advisory Board have advanced the Agency’s visibility, transparency and accountability; they have become models for Sheriffs Offices across the nation. And with his efforts, the Agency has improved the diversity of its personnel – and hired and trained the nation’s first Somali deputy.
- Rich promised to respect and protect all residents and their civil rights and liberties. When he took the Oath of Office, he swore to uphold the Constitution, which is reflected in the work of the Agency: in the way the Agency respected Occupy Minnesota’s First Amendment Right to demonstrate and protest; in the way the Agency advocated for law changes to ensure mentally ill inmates get treatment immediately; in the way the Agency led the nation in refusing to fulfill ICE Detainer requests (instead we detain upon a court order). These decisions may have been controversial to some, but they bring honor to our work as a law enforcement Agency.
- Rich promised that he would serve as a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Since 2008 the Sheriff’s Office worked with a reduced staff (nearly a 10% rduction in the work force), to hold property taxpayers harmless to the economic challenges of the Recession. With his efforts, the Agency has recruited and trained hundreds of Volunteers and Special Deputies who contribute more than 40,000 of hours every year to serving residents throughout the County.
Rich makes hundreds of appearances in the County every month; he has never rested –not for one day in the past 7 years — until he was confident that the Agency and he had done everything possible to make Hennepin County safe for all of our kids and all of our families.
And that is what Rich Stanek brings to the Office of Sheriff that is unique: a vision and mission for the Sheriff’s Office that is making a real difference in keeping our families, neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and places of worship safe.