RED WING -- After months of both loud support and vocal frustration from community members, Police Chief Roger Pohlman found himself on paid administrative leave this week.
For example, on Sept. 4, a group gathered outside of Pohlman’s home to protest.
The issues include social justice and community policing. These are in addition to the growing pressures felt here -- as in much of the country -- between law enforcement and people of color, especially since the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody. That city has discussed defunding its police department.
In Red Wing, the unofficial word percolating in the community is the council has told Pohlman the city wants to take a different direction.
On Friday, wife Shelley Pohlman, told the Republican Eagle in an email, “Overwhelming support is coming from everywhere but especially from the faith-based community.”
City Council members met in a closed session Monday to consider unspecified allegations against an unnamed employee. That item was added to the regular meeting agenda late that afternoon. When they reconvened, they directed the city administrator to proceed as they had discussed.
That directive became clearer Tuesday afternoon after the Republican Eagle filed a data request under Minnesota law: Chief Roger Pohlman had been on paid administrative leave after the council held preliminary consideration of allegations involving him.
In a press release sent out Wednesday morning the city of Red Wing stated, "On Monday, February 8, 2021, Police Chief Roger Pohlman was placed on paid administrative leave. While we want to be as transparent with you as possible, the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act prevents us from disclosing further information at this time. The City Council supports and values the role of the Police Department in our organization and community and is committed to working with them now and in the future."
Personnel data on public employees involving the existence and status of any complaints or charges is public.
The Republican Eagle is unaware of any disciplinary action under consideration. There have been obvious tensions between some council members and the chief since the formation of the new Advisory Team in 2020 looking into city policies, starting with the police department.
Pohlman is originally from southwestern Minnesota. Before joining the Red Wing Police Department he spent about a decade in the Air Force where he was stationed in Tucson, Ariz., Germany, Guam and Turkey. Most recently, Pohlman spent 18 years working for the Grand Forks, N.D., police department.
Evan Brown was the only council member not in attendance for Monday's meeting. Council President Becky Norton and members Dean Hove, Erin Buss, Laurel Stinson and Andy Klitzke voted to have City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann proceed with their closed-door directive. Council member Kim Beise abstained from the vote.
With the Red Wing chief of police placed on paid administrative leave, Capt. Gordon Rohr and Capt. Travis Bray will step in to help lead the department. An interim director has not yet been named, the city announced Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.
The chief of police is one several department heads who serves at the pleasure of the City Council.
Pohlman could not be reached for this story.