Why We Run: Dave “Hutch” Hutchinson
With two months to the general election, we want to show off some of our inspiring RFS- endorsed candidates in a new series called “Why We Run,” and we’re kicking it off with a profile of David “Hutch” Hutchinson. He’s running to make law enforcement more inclusive, respectful in his community in Minnesota, and would be the first LGBTQ sheriff in the Midwest.
Call him “Hutch.”
Sgt. David “Hutch” Hutchinson, a 15-year veteran with the Minneapolis Metro Transit Police (MTPD), figures he was first introduced to policing at 5 or 6 years old when his dad Jerry, a K-9 officer on his way home from the night shift, would occasionally take Hutchinson to school in his patrol car.
By the time he was about 10, he knew he wanted to be a police officer.
Now, armed with new ideas and a progressive outlook, Hutchinson is running against incumbent Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek with a clear, simple message: Treat people with respect. Make certain that deputies are recruited from within the diverse communities they represente. Give a voice to deputies and community members, listen to and act on their concerns. Most importantly, hold all stakeholders accountable for their actions.
“I want to be honest, transparent,” he said. “To give people a voice.”
Hutchinson who has lived in Minnesota since childhood and currently lives in Hennepin County with his husband, Justin. He feels the current sheriff spends too much time in DC hobnobbing with the Trump administration and not enough time in the county. Stanek also cooperates with ICE to deport immigrants and unnecessarily sent deputies to Standing Rock in North Dakota to arrest Native Americans protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I will stay [in the county] to keep the streets safe and reduce crime,” he said. “This is not a one-person show. Being a leader is about bringing people together.”
His plan begins by changing perceptions about the police as early as middle school. “Growing up with a dad who served the community as an officer, I had no negative connotations applied [to policing]” he said. In addition to attracting a more diverse group of deputies to the ranks, he feels early positive exposure to the police is key to changing perceptions about the profession and attracting the best and brightest.
Meeting with students from underserved and low-income communities offers opportunities for the sheriff’s office to promote jobs within the ranks that pay well, offer job satisfaction and early retirement options. The program helps encourage students to look to law enforcement as a viable option after high school and gives officers and kids a chance to interact and get to know one another.
“Get those kids happy and excited about policing,” he said.
There is not one Somali-speaking deputy on staff in Hennepin County, he adds as an example. This, though the 2011 census, the most current numbers available, showed 32,000 Somali residents in Minnesota, the largest community of its type per capita in the US. And the population is growing. Hutchinson would like to see an improved representation of community members from all races and religious affiliations and from within the LGBT community.
“I want our people to represent the entire county and mirror the people we serve,” he added. Law enforcement recruitment has seen a slump in the past decade. When Hutchinson applied out of college, the field of applicants was bigger, with hundreds applying for 20 or so positions. Now, he said the numbers of people interested in policing has dwindled to just a handful applying for each opening.
Hutchinson feels that nationwide, police-involved shootings have given policing a bad name. He points to the death of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African-American man who was shot and killed by police at a traffic stop in Minnesota in 2016. His plan is to replace police officers who are not suited to policing with recruits who have higher emotional intelligence and an ability to handle stress.
Hutch said that what is needed are officers who can handle stressful encounters without turning to lethal force. “No cop wants to take a human life and if they do, they need to be fired and put into treatment immediately,” he said. But, he said, officers need to know that if they are placed into a situation where lethal force is absolutely required, they will be given a fair shake if they have complied with law, policy, and basic morality. He adds that stricter gun laws will help protect both the community and law enforcement.
In addition, community mental health and the mental health of officers are also important to Hutchinson.
Until he began his campaign, Hutchinson was a leader in the Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). CIT is a program that trains officers on how to address and de-escalate mental health crisis situations in the community. According to the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, 50 percent of all prisoners in Minnesota jails are mentally ill. In addition to bringing this type of training to the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, Hutchinson would like to build on the existing program model and would embed mental health professionals within the ranks to be on hand to help in situations where they can offer expertise.
He feels sheriff’s deputies would benefit from a program similar to the Peer Support Team he’s helped lead at MTPD. The program is 100 percent anonymous and allows officers to talk about their own issues. Allowing officers to confidentially unload and release stress to peers in a way that doesn’t cause them to lose their jobs.
“If they are happy and healthy they can serve [the community] better,” said Hutchinson. “The current system is backward. The past 20–30 years police and sheriff’s departments have treated symptoms rather than the underlying issue.”
Hutchinson’s feels his platform of transparency, accountability, of expecting and offering respect for the community and the officers who police it, and hire people to work within the sheriff’s department that more directly mirror the population, are but a few reasons to vote for him.