Chief Smith goes on indefinite leave of absence

According to Locally Grown:

The Chief has requested an indefinite leave of absence and it has been granted by the City Administrator. Roger Schroeder has been promoted to Captain, effective immediately. Capt. Schroeder will handle day to day operations of the department. If you have any questions, please see a Supervisor. Any questions regarding the Chief will be handled by the City Administrator.

An interesting turn of events, considering the recent swirl of publicity around the Chief.


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It's about time the city opens it's eyes and figured out one of the major problems within the city and specifically with the Police Department was Chief Gary Smith. What many people don't realize is that in Smith's short stay in Northfield he has managed to loose a large number of quality Officers to other departments because they could no longer work for an unethical person any longer. From 2001-2006 Smith forced 11 officers to either retire or leave for other departments because the Officers could no longer deal with the internal problems of the department and city offices. I hope the latest incident shows the citizens of Northfield that there are problems within the operations of the city and if you dig into the problems it does not stop with the Police Chief. I can only hope that Capt Schroeder remebers the problems that Smith created and attempts to get things with the Northfield Police Department back on the right track.

Former Northfield Police Officer


I hope those that took the bait and got whipped into a frenzy over this unsubstantiated garbage *LEARN* something from this. The War On Drugs is a sham that wastes tax-payer money and destroys families. Look what it's done to our town.

Also, Locally Grown has been deleting any negative comments about Gary Smith. I don't know what their deal is, but they are not honest.

From a different point of view

Some of you may not have thought of the heroin story from this point of view - but as a Realtor in town, our housing market could easily be affected. The damage this distorted view of Smith's has cost is hard to believe. The ripple effect on the view of our town and the confidence in people who wanted to move to this "den of iniquity" is devistating. It is like trying to take back an arrow that is shot. A little hard to do. Of course our town is not perfect, but the stories that hit the State and National news were over exaggerated. All we can all do is keep spreading the truth about our town, and stop the lies.

The two comments that may be

The two comments that may be construed as negative, I have read, on this post and the first one posted, are true.
Accept it Mr.Anderson.
Deleting these posts? Reminds me of what the Democrats are trying to do with their "Fairness Doctrine" stifle free speech.
Chief Gary Smith needs to move on. It would be best for The City of Northfield, The Police Department, and Gary Smith.

Smith might have problems, but northfield does too.

From what I've seen, many in this community are more concerned with protecting an image than the health of the community at large. Oh My God, don't let Northfield's Golden Image be tarnished!! Maybe you will wake up when someone dies of a heroin overdose. I doubt it. Chief Smith may have severe deficiencies as a leader, but many are scapegoating him as that is easier than admitting that northfield has a serious problem with hard drugs. These are YOUR CHILDREN taking pills and snorting smack.

Smith did everyone a favor by putting this town on alert. There is a problem in northfield that cops and government cannot solve.

I frankly think no one's data in this case is all-encompassing. Do you really think Sarah Shippey knows everything? Wake up. Youth live behind a wall of secrecy and all that she can see is who comes across Omada Behavioral Health. Omada provides valuable services, but clairovoyance isn't in their songbook.

On to the schools...
in this climate of school "accountability", you can bank on them downplaying the problem. Do you really think all of the heroin people are in school? Do you really think the school as a clue what is going on? even if they did, they would stifle it.

Reputations are at stake! Property Values! Northfield's Status as Epicenter of the Pompous "Small-Towner" could be damaged! OH MY GOD!

Any person that can think of the reputation of Northfield before the health of Northfield is no leader and a fraud and should be run out of town and into the neo-suburban hell in which they belong. The houses here sell themselves and any fool knows that, heroin or not.

People here that would shove this problem under the rug remind me of the cancerous parts of the Catholic leadership during the "pedophilia era" that sought to protect the church's interest instead of admitting the problem.

Chief Smith may have severe

Chief Smith may have severe deficiencies as a leader, but many are scapegoating him as that is easier than admitting that northfield has a serious problem with hard drugs. These are YOUR CHILDREN taking pills and snorting smack.

You're believing the lie. The gullibility of you and people like you is what's wrecking this town, state, and country, not drugs.

The NPD have a large stake in keeping the war on drugs going. After all, they're making money hand over fist by claiming things are much worse than they are.

Glad to see that someone finally got called on it.


If you believe people are denying the problem to preserve Northfield's image, then you need to show the true extent of the problem. Relying on anecdotal evidence is a shoddy way of doing that.

That's the fundamental nature of this issue.

Drug abuse obviously needs to be addressed in all sectors of society, whether by one or one hundred people.

Denial is never a good way to deal with it, but neither is over-reaction caused by panic.

I know some have reacted by completely denying that there is any sort of problem, which is an understandable but unfortunate reaction.

It is very sensible and proper, however, to ask hard questions of public officials when confronted with an issue like this.

Holding officials accountable for their claims - expecting there to be significant corroborating evidence, for example - does not mean people are in denial.

It means they are being concerned citizens.

On the other side of the spectrum, blindly believing any official's claim, even when there seems to be a dearth of supporting statistics for it, leaves you vulnerable for easy manipulation.

Let's hold the problem to the light, but let's make sure it is the neither the light of obstinance nor the light of obedience, but the light of reason.

- Brendon Etter
A Play A Day

heh, i'm not exactly for the war on drugs...

Regarding the War on Drugs...
Though I think parts of Northfield have a pretty severe problem with hard drugs, I am no advocate of the war on drugs. I basically think there shouldn't be drug laws concerning usage or even their distribution, with the possible exception of heroin, coke and meth.

I honestly don't see much political calculation behind this on the part of Chief Smith. I don't see him advocating jail time for users and I really don't see him having much interest in busting the children of the community for being stupid and turning to heroin.

He made mistakes in the way he brought this to the community's attention, no doubt. But I view it as being better than the alternative of saying nothing to the community at large. I think that it is simple-minded to write off Smith's stance as merely a quest for an expansion of police budgets. If it was merely a quest for money, we would have seen a much different presentation of the issue that wouldn't have focused on the need for a community response and the need for users to receive treatment rather than prosecution.

(sorry to Mr. Etter, as this is more of response to the posting above his)

To "30 year resident"

Sorry for the impersonal nature of the subject heading. I don't know your name, but I wanted to be clear that I am primarily responding to your comments.

In many ways, I agree with you. Discussing a community's problems openly is preferable to not doing so. To a large extent, chief Smith's press conference instigated that discussion.

However, the content and manner of his press conference have, in many ways, diverted the public discussion from dealing with the heroin issue to dealing with the corroboration, publicity and integrity issues.

Northfield, like all communities, has a certain amount of drug use and abuse problems. The exact extent of the problem is not important to those tangled up in it. To the person, they need help.

That being said, numbers are of extreme importance to those who make policy, enforce laws, allocate funding, etc... So, in this case, the personal weight of the issue gets lost in the political. It gets lost even more so, if the political nature takes center stage because of an understandable dispute about the validity of a public official's very public claims.

I am more skeptical about the motivations for the press conference than you are, but that is, admittedly, just a gut reaction. I tend to be fairly skeptical of many public pronouncements.

It may have been better, perhaps, for the chief to discuss his concerns in a column for the Northfield News. He might have taken a tone along these lines: "Here is a concern I have. Here's what I've actually seen in Northfield that leads me to this conclusion."

That could have spurred enormous amounts of public conversation. If done more collaboratively with other public officials (city and school tops among them) and with less anecdotally-based speculation, those who deny the problem (to whatever extent) may have reacted with less defensiveness, and those who claim special knowledge of the size of the problem (to whatever extent) may have reacted with less offensiveness. Cooperative voices would have been easier to hear if the polarizing voices had not been so agitated by the rather sensationalistic nature of the press conference and attendant reportage.

Ultimately, we must seek out reason. Whether we bury them in the sand or shield them from the falling sky, we all seem like birds protecting, not using, our heads. Northfield is a better, more caring community than that.

- Brendon Etter
A Play A Day

Northfield Does Have a Drug Problem

I know for a fact that there is a significant heroine problem in Northfield. I have friends who are or were addicts, I have worked with people who are addicts, and I have heard countless stories of people buying, selling, and using heroine in Northfield, many of them minors. If the city leaders dismiss this issue they might as well dismiss our future. Failure to act on this is going to kill your youth, either by means of overdose, or disease. The people of Northfield need to take a hard look in the mirror, swollow their pride and do the right thing instead of sweeping it under the rug. Northfield has only itself and it's residents to blame for this whole crisis. If we hadn't turned a blind eye to youth drinking, and "soft" drug use, the problem wouldn't have escilated to this point. Wake up Northfield! You are your own worst nightmare.

Hyperbole problem more like it.

Stories about drug use are still just stories. This is the same sort of Chicken Little nonsense that brought Smith down.

There is no corroboration from the hospital, colleges, schools, or police reports themselves that this is a significant problem. The Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, and MPR have all weighed in an exposed the Chief's claims as baseless.

How many different voices will it take for you to accept this?

what would it take to you to prove a drug problem?

Are you not aware that Sarah Shippey has plainly stated that she knows of 50-60 people that are heroin/oxycontin users of some degree? If she empirically knows of this quantity, you can bet that there are users out there that haven't been caught and haven't shown up where you can count them. That said, 50-60 users alone is a serious problem with a drug that can get you addicted after a few times of experimentation. When you factor in those people that have slipped under the radar, the issue is bigger than can be readily demonstrated with data.

Why do you insist on trusting the outside media as opposed to those voices within this community that are trying to address this? The individuals that have the capacity to know the scope of this problem are the young people affected by this drug and the social climate that is giving rise to its use. There is a great deal of shame and fear on the part of those young people trapped in this culture. No one will be turned in by their peers for this drug. The danger is to high to anyone that is directly or indirectly involved in the culture that has brought this to town.

Re: Northfield Does Have A Drug Problem

As I mentioned in a previous post, certainly Northfield has a drug problem; as do pretty much all communities. One person abusing heroin in Northfield is a problem, but it most distinctly is not the same measure of problem as 150-250 people abusing heroin.

I will not question the validity of your personal experience or the veracity of your claims, but I believe you are looking at only your personal experience and making some gross generalizations.

Additionally, you're using alarmist rhetoric based on those generalizations which only serves to heighten panic. Panic is not the way to deal with this problem, whatever its scope may be.

Again, disagreeing with the content or nature of a statement made by a public official is not the same thing as denial (or "sweeping it under the rug" as you put it).

It is simply a means of demanding accountability from a public official whose words can and have (in this case) had some very large ramifications. That's conscientious citizenship.

There are definitely some in the community who are in denial about this issue for whatever reason; just as there are those who believe this is the end of times. Neither is a helpful reaction, but both are understandable.

Getting a firmer grip on the reality of the problem is a necessity. It seems to me that most in Northfield wanted to do that; so when confronted with numbers that didn't add up, they began asking questions. These questions were not answered convincingly or with sufficient reliable evidence. I think it's natural that many have grown skeptical about the whole affair.

But, again, skepticism is not denial. It's fact checking.

As always, help those who need help. Continue open dialouge and cooperation. Be personally and socially vigilant. Confront the problem in whatever ways you can. But, first and foremost, always use reason.

The hard work is usually done in the middle, not from the sides, of the debate. I think most people are drifting into the center of this and understanding it better as a result.

- Brendon Etter
A Play A Day

Smith might have problems, but Northfield does too.

Very nicely said, I agree with you.

re:The Two Comments That May Be

What on earth do you think "free speech" constitutes? if you think it's okay for Rupert Murdoch et al to own the media and control that content, what on earth right do you have to complain about someone moderating your posts? These blogs aren't public property like a city street. Your rights here are granted by the owner/moderator of a site. Just as I would have a right to force you from my property if you were standing on my lawn swearing at Chief Smith, so does the owner/moderator of a site have a right to eject your comments as they see fit.

Gary Smith

WOW - You can't make this up!! A police chief calls a big press conference without including school officials, and drug counseling experts. His boss was on vacation and didn't know a thing about it. He Blurts out some staggering numbers with a banner to boot "Not in my back yard". His sidekick tells of three indictments which were forthcoming. He Tells the drug dealers to stop selling to the Northfield kids, they're "burned". The local and state media believe because he's the Chief of Police he's got the facts, and the "story" makes front page news!

Next comes the firestorm!! How did he come up with the numbers? School officials are red in the face about how the Northfield Schools are portrayed. Local hospitals don't have reports of gangs of kids running through the halls gathering drugs for their habit. I haven't heard of one heroin dealer asking for ID's before selling their smack.

Within two weeks the police chief is on medical leave on the advice of his doctors. His boss, Al Roder, reveals the police chief has conducted a criminal investigation on him (I hope it's not for dealing heroin). The sidekick is now in charge but has to admit there were no indictments and the statement was inaccurate. Now he's in charge of running the dealers out of town, but he can't tell the truth either.

This is a made for TV movie!! "Keystone Cops in River City" starring Gary Smith as himself!!

If drug addiction wasn't so serious the whole thing would be a knee slapper. Gary Smith got what he wanted - headlines. He forgot to bring truth, respect, ethics, and integrity into the press conference with him. As for his sidekick - why is he now in charge?


Comments regarding articles published July 18, 2007 in the Northfield News and in the Faribault Daily News.
Northfield’s elected government and the police chief’s immediate supervisors past and present knew of the chief’s management style (which, as one person said in a previous posting to lose eleven sworn police officers in eight years is terrible), and his almost unquenchable thirst for publicity.
As police chief, his job one is to promote Northfield, not degrade it. Although having a heroin problem is news, it’s not for publication in the metro papers and television newscasts. The chief, who was looking to make himself out to be a “big shot,” has ultimately taken the image of the whole Northfield area down along with him.
And the school district is covering its rear end by saying that they didn’t know about a problem within the high school. Yet they admit that they referred fifteen kids for drug treatment. I think that one kid requiring treatment is a problem, yet alone fifteen. I know for a fact that a couple of years ago a fifteen-year old kid was caught smoking marijuana on school property and the assistant principals did not call parents. Those parents should have been called immediately. And if this child was smoking on school property, why weren’t the police called? This is a joke that has no punch line.
The pointing of fingers has to stop and instead this community needs to come together to accept responsibility for the youth in our community and effectively address the drug use.
Also according to the published article(s), the city administrator stated that the chief was conducting a criminal investigation against the city administrator. Regardless whether or not this should have been handled by another law enforcement organization, isn’t this interfering with an investigation on the city administrator’s part? To place the chief on administrative leave successfully stops any investigation and I believe that this is a criminal offense on the city administrator’s part.
I think with the court problems the two elected officials are in, (as published in the Northfield News) in their private lives, the possible criminal investigation and what appears to be the forced leave of absence of the chief by the city administrator, all of these people should resign immediately to prevent further damage to the image of this city.
As far as the whole city government goes, can you say DYSFUNCTIONAL?
Does the remainder of the city council care what is happening to the city they were elected to promote?
Northfield is the laughing stock of the entire state of Minnesota.
The city and school district can continue to have committee meetings that go nowhere. How does something like this stop? How about a reliable drug education for school kids starting in the elementary schools? How about going back to the junior high school system where kids in ninth grade aren’t exposed to the upper class students? Or the two middle school programs where sixth and seventh graders are in one building and eighth and ninth are in another. The school district likes to spend money on buildings; maybe they can build themselves another monument to their greatness.
If I sound bitter, I guess I am. I have lived in this area longer than any of the administrators either in the city or the school district and I am grossly offended for what they have done to this community.

You are an idiot

The chief requested the leave. The city adminstrator did not dismiss him...the city adminstrator approved the cheif's request...


I have been familliar with the Northfield Police Department for several years and seeing the effect of what Gary smith has done to this once proud group of dedicated professionals has done sickens me. Smith is an unethical blow hard that has wasted resources (I cite the "accredited Law Enforcement" program) and driven away 11 outstanding officers because they could no longer stand to work for him and his constant micromanaging style. Police Officers are trained professionals who can better use their time looking and observing what is happening rather than logging every minute that they are on duty. Smith has done nothing but try and promote himself in a shameless manner regardless of the cost to anyone and everyone else. Smith has one concern and on concern only and that is Gary Smith.

I also wonder what makes Gary Smith think that he has the authority to send an addict to treatment? Is Gary Smith now a judge or a physician or an expert in the field of chemical dependency? The role of the police is to start these offenders down the path of the criminal justice system. It is the role of the justrice system to divert to treatment or send the individual on through for formal prosecution. We all must remember that these people who are breaking into homes are in fact criminals and the people who live in the homes that are being burglarized are victims. Maybe we should give the victims a little consideration for the fact that their lives have been invaded and worry about the criminals second since they made a concious decision to take heroine for the first time which got them into their situation to begin with.

I have a news flash for everyone the heroine problem is county wide and this is not anything new to Northfield or Rice County. The best way to combat this issue for kids is to put the responsibility on parents just as much if not more that the police and the schools. Parents need to take the time to know what their children are up to. Parents do not need a warrant to search their kid's rooms cars or belongings. If a parent finds something they can decide how to handle the issue up to and including working with the schools or police.

Does anyone know the name of

Does anyone know the name of the afore mentioned 11 quality officers that left during the Gary Smith administration?

Let's focus

I've been following this from afar, and it's just too strange. It seems to me that we're losing focus, from the attention demanding problems of chemical use and abuse and addictions of all sorts that are prevalent in our society, and instead unreasonably concerned about whether Smith acted properly, why he's gone, and what's up with Roder, etc, blah, blah, sigh... Addictions ranging from heroin to TV to porn are common and not unique to Northfield, and Northfield can't escape. Northfield shouldn't escape. Interventions happen regularly. There are at least 10 12-step meetings a week in Northfield, and other meetings all over the county. There are treatment resources. Enough denial and enabling, speculating and gossiping. Can we focus ourselves on doing what it takes for each of us to straighten up and fly right!?!?

And editor Anne -- how 'bout some edits to prior posts, because although Northfield may indeed have a "heroine" problem, I don't think that's what we're talking about here!

Focus on facts

Carol, I think all these many problems have a common theme: how to gather correct information and share it in a timely, fair and ethical way, without hysteria or personal agendas.

In a separate post on this site, I have dealt with that issue and I am organizing a media town hall meeting to discuss better information systems all around. More details later.

And the devil is in the details of this whole controversy, from definitions of terms to clashes in data sets to a stray letter or an outdated piece of information. Mistakes happen, and even small ones can have serious consequences, as we have seen over the last month. Others are just minor annoyances we graciously overlook when someone is making an otherwise sincere effort.

For example, the editing program on this site doesn't allow for spell check, so a tired writer or volunteer editor may miss a stray letter now and then. The editors here also don't edit reader comments -- and even if they did, I left the managing editor's post a couple of months ago. Nice try at putting me in my place, but it seems odd from someone calling for a focus on higher priorities, so to speak.

Sorry, I couldn't resist that one. No hard feelings.

Courageous and Strong

Speaking as an NCO board member but NOT representing the board as a whole...

Thank you to the NON anonymous post-ers. You all are courageous and strong. It take a lot of gumption for folks to be publicly honest with their opinions as well as their names. Do however, please refrain from trying to insult anyone. Doing so just makes your comment less strong or courageous.

To the anonymous post - ers. I DO understand and respect the need for anonymity (sp??) in some cases BUT if you need it in order to insult, degrade, flame or harp on someone you do the same (degrade anyway) your point and are perhaps the opposite of courageous. Any testimony you might add to anyone's negative or positive case is completely undermined by your unwilliness to stand behind your statement.

Take my opinion for consideration at the least.
Thanks to all for participating in the discussion.

Cynthia Child