Inspector Kathy Waite has seen much of what the Minneapolis Police Department does.
She started her 20-year MPD career as a patrol officer, then worked in the juvenile division and eventually led the SWAT Negotiator team.
Now she will command the 2nd Precinct, which covers northeast Minneapolis and the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota.
Minneapolis police Chief Janeé Harteau appointed Waite last month. As commander, Waite will lead the precinct’s 67 officers and act as a liaison between police and the community.
Waite replaced Inspector Bryan Schafer, who now commands the 1st Precinct downtown.
During his tenure, Schafer pressed Dinkytown businesses to reassess their late-night security and threatened to close doors if problems with unruly crowds persisted.
Waite was thrilled about the job but said she always saw herself becoming an inspector.
“I knew I would get here someday if I worked really hard,” she said. “And it happened.”
‘A monumental event’
Waite said her most difficult challenge came in 2007, when she was placed in charge of equipment and supply operations after the Interstate-35W bridge collapse.
She worked 12- to 18-hour shifts for four weeks to ensure response crews had the resources needed to clean up the damage and rescue those still trapped under rubble.
“It was a monumental event for the entire city,” she said. “The response we had down there and the work that we all did was just a pivotal part of my career.”
For her, the hardest part was balancing her personal life with work.
“It was a challenge, but in the end, our goals and objectives in our lives change on a daily basis,” she said.” So, you have to make it work.”
Waite has a unique skill set that was critical in getting the job done, said 4th Precinct Inspector Mike Kjos.
“She’s extremely detail-oriented as far as tracking funds and personnel,” he said. “A lot of police officers aren’t really good at those types of tasks.”
‘A fresh view’
Waite is younger than many of the precinct’s previous inspectors, Kjos said, and her youth will be a welcome addition to the precinct.
“She brings a little more of a fresh view on everything in life,” he said. “I think the community will like someone who breathes a more positive, interactive, community breath.”
Waite was born in Roseville, Minn., and raised by two teachers, so she said education was very important to her family.
Waite’s next-door neighbor was the town’s chief of police, and she said she always had an attraction to a career in law enforcement.
“I also probably watched a lot of television in my youth, from ‘Hill Street Blues’ to ‘Starsky and Hutch’,” she said. “So, at a very young age, it appealed to me to go into law enforcement.”
She graduated with degrees in sociology and psychology from Hamline University in St. Paul. She returned to Hamline to complete a master’s degree in public administration.
As her career has progressed, Waite said she has become even more aware of the important role police play in the community.
“I now have more of a big-picture view of what we do,” she said. “I need to have a much broader perspective.”
Having the University in her precinct offers a unique and exciting challenge, Waite said.
“The enthusiasm of the [University] and the students makes it a fun place to be,” she said. “That energy encompasses a lot of the neighborhoods around there.”
But she said large events like Homecoming and Spring Jam can make policing the area difficult.
“We train and practice to respond to things as best we can,” she said. “But sometimes you just never know what’s coming, so there’s only so much you can do.”
Waite has spent the first month of her tenure building relationships with some of the community organizations in the 2nd Precinct, like the Northeast and Dinkytown business associations.
Waite has worked near the University before, when she served as a lieutenant in the precinct.
“I’m excited that she’s in the position because I’m familiar with her,” DBA President Skott Johnson said. “I like that she knows a little bit about Dinkytown.”
She hasn’t had any direct interaction with the DBA since becoming inspector, but Johnson said he plans to present her with a new late-night security plan next week.
“She’s attended security meetings with us before,” he said. “She definitely gets involved, and I like that.”
Waite said these relationships are critical in preserving a safe community.
“Often times, people have a perception of crime in the community that is not accurate,” she said. “That line of communication is a critical piece to put people at ease or get people engaged in the community.”