(Continuation of a series focusing on those who have made FirstNet a reality for Public Safety)
By ATFN Staff
As board member for the First Responder Network Authority, former Hennepin County Sheriff Richard W. Stanek is bringing to a national audience his commitment to public safety excellence and innovation that characterized his tenure as sheriff for the largest county in Minnesota.
Stanek, who retired in 2018 after a career of serving the public, served as a legislator in the Minnesota House of Representatives and helped lead the Minneapolis Police Department as commander. But his tireless efforts at bringing pragmatic solutions to the force he steered and served as Hennepin County Sheriff from 2007 and 2018, including efforts to reduce gun violence and cracking down on illegal drugs, have demonstrated his rare ability to bring people and politicians together to build community.
“I really haven’t missed a beat since the day that I retired,” Stanek told MinnPost in a recent interview. “I’m very engaged in public safety issues, on both the local and national basis, which is why I would do and what folks would expect after 35 years of public service.”
Before retiring, and launching Public Safety Strategy Group, which helps develop training, communication strategies, election fundraising plans and other administrative aspects of law enforcement from Plymouth, Minn., Sheriff Stank was credited by local press reports for “improving how jails treat inmates with mental illnesses” (MinnPost), including allowing deputies to carry Narcan to offset opioid overdoses and “completely transform[ing] the mission of the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office” (Minneapolis Star Tribune), “making it an agency that did more than serve warrants and run the jail.”
In 2006, Sheriff Stank also helped initiate a staff-community engagement team and a civilian community advisory board. And he changed policy to allow women to wear head coverings, honoring a request from the local Somali immigrant community.
“He doesn’t mince words, but really cares about his people,” business owner Gene Retat told The Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2019.
As a legislator in the 1990s, Stanek chaired the House Crime Policy and Finance Committee, adding a voice of law enforcement experience onto a state legislative body and writing the state’s DWI statute. And it was his interest in exploring and bridging connections between the day-to-day officers and the evolving technology that, as sheriff, led I’m to bulk up on his office’s investigative force, including fighting for new technology to aid crime analysis. As sheriff, Stanek oversaw a staff of 800-plus personnel, a $125 million budget, with 36,000 rotating through detention facilities.
“Sheriff Stank is one of those people that tells it straight,” said Phil Raines, President of Prevailing Wisdom, LLC. “He is politically savvy but honest and direct. Asa result, he earns your respect.”
The background Stanek brings to the FirstNet Authority board — including his service on the National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Committee and the NSA’s Homeland Security Committee — showcases his pragmatic, diverse experience in the trenches of various law enforcement communities. He also holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Hamline University and received a Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice from the University of Minnesota.
“When you see him on TV,” Sheriff’s Lieutenant Chris Mathison told MinnPost in 2019, “You see him in front of a group, he’s a speaker, he’s a politician. But what you don’t see is, he’s got a huge heart. He cares for the people of this county.”
A native of northeast Minneapolis, Stanek also served as board member for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities and East Side Neighborhood Services. He has also been an outspoken advocate for the public safety benefits to high quality preschool and helped launch a national campaign to push for federal funding for preschool in 2013.