An in-your-face New Yorker, a self-effacing intellectual and a scientifically minded police reformer, Tony Bouza was eulogized at a memorial meeting Saturday in Minneapolis.
The former Minneapolis police chief died June 26 at the Almira Choice care center in Bloomington at the age of 94.
Several internationally known experts on policing methodologies spoke at an afternoon program at the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota, a testament to the impact Bouza made on the police profession during both his time as a police official in New York City and tenure as Minneapolis chief from 1981 to 1988.
"Tony Bouza was asked to come to Minneapolis specifically as an outsider to make systemic changes within the Minneapolis Police Department," Police Chief Brian O'Hara said. "The parallels between his career and mine are not lost on me. Tony had a reputation as a straight-talking atypical cop who wasn't afraid to speak his mind."
By any standard, Bouza stood out. While a strong advocate for police, he condemned racism within his own department and vowed to rid it of "thumpers" who engaged in excessive force.
He was a voracious reader, the speakers said, and would quote Rudyard Kipling and Voltaire to make his points. He authored a dozen books. Joseph Selvaggio, a close friend of Bouza's and founder of Project for Pride in Living, which builds housing for people on low incomes, said Bouza's books "would force you to the dictionary."
Bouza kept his door wide open, and visitors could hurry past the receptionist and walk into his office in City Hall.
"As chief, anyone could see him without an appointment and without being screened. Our phone was listed in the phone book. We got calls late at night." recalled Tony Bouza, one of his two sons. Son Dominick Bouza also spoke.
Several speakers mentioned Bouza's wife, Erica, who became well known in the 1980s for engaging in peaceful civil disobedience protests against the manufacture of cluster bombs, requiring Bouza's police officers to arrest her, along with hundreds of others. Chief Bouza brought the protesters cookies while they waited on buses to be processed.
Lawrence W. Sherman, chief scientific officer for the London Metropolitan Police at Scotland Yard, flew in from London to speak at the memorial and described the enormous impact Bouza had on the Minneapolis and New York police departments. He said Bouza gave "birth to evidence-based policing" with police initiatives that were repeated worldwide.
Those included conducting computerized analysis of addresses that received the most calls from police and concentrating efforts to resolve the issues that made the addresses so problematic.
Charles Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C., described how Bouza employed an experiment that altered the way many cities across the country handled domestic violence cases.
Many police departments, when called to a domestic dispute, would simply separate the parties, telling the husband or partner to take a walk — and that was it. In a number of cases, the husband would return and assault the spouse again.
Bouza wanted to know if arresting the spouse would make a difference, and so officers were randomly assigned to either arrest or not arrest the partner or try some form of counseling and see if an arrest made a difference.
Although unprecedented and risky, the practice seemed to work, became the norm and the Minneapolis model became the national standard, Wexler said.
Several states passed laws making the arrest of domestic abusers mandatory, Wexler said. Bouza collaborated with Wexler, and other outside police experts, in developing projects, and Minneapolis became known nationally as a laboratory for police innovations.
"Chief Bouza shook things up," said Sharon Sayles Belton, former Minneapolis mayor. "He ruffled a lot of feathers," she said, but he was committed to a strategy "of building community trust."