Police chief questions pre-trial release of man charged with assaulting Clean and Safe Team member
DULUTH, MN -- Duluth’s police chief is questioning why a man accused of assaulting a member of the downtown area’s Clean and Safe Team was released from jail in the first place.
According to Duluth Police, Michael Hanson, 37, was charged with third degree assault, threats of violence, assaulting a police officer, and probation violation Wednesday.
Police say Cecile Simonson, 65, who was working for the Clean and Safe Team at the time, encountered three men in the DECC parking ramp stairwell around 6:40 p.m. on July 4.
After a brief exchange, police say, Michael Hanson, 37, assaulted Simonson, hitting her head against the railing four to five times.
Police say she was taken to the hospital, where she had to get stitches and receive treatment for her fractured lower back.
According to Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken, Hansen was out of jail on a pretrial release for an assault in April that the DPD investigated and had arrested him for.
In a statement Thursday, Tusken appeared to point to the pandemic as a reason for his release.
“The pandemic required relaxing accountability standards out of an abundance of caution to keep jails from becoming the sources of community spread. The jail was reserved for the most serious offenses. Judges replaced warrants that required incarceration with a promise to appear warrants. These warrants give defendants who have arrest warrants the ability to avoid jail time with a signature and a promise to appear. The problem, many of those who promised to appear, didn’t.
The unintended consequences of relaxing these standards muted offender accountability and emboldened behaviors of recidivist offenders who quickly became conditioned to expect the consequences of their actions to be few and fleeting. We know that when we fail to hold people accountable for lower-level offenses, behaviors have and do escalate into more serious offenses,” Tusken wrote in a statement.
Tusken said he met with representatives from the City Attorney’s Office and judges in April to share how those relaxed policies were “Impacting safety and quality of life in Duluth, and specifically, our Downtown.”
Tusken said the judges responded.
“Today, we are seeing fewer PTA warrants pending by half and we know that correcting our trajectory of accountability takes time,” he wrote.
“DPD is working in earnest to do extra patrols, meet with concerned community members and business owners, and engage with our social workers to improve outcomes and safety for all. This incident is a setback but working together will improve outcomes,” Tusken continued.
Simonson is a 13-year veteran of the Downtown Clean and Safe Team.
Its mission is to promote greater hospitality and safety in the downtown Duluth community, according to its website.
They help pick up trash, remove weeds and graffiti, escort people to their vehicles, among other tasks.
The Greater Downtown Council agreed that repeat offenders need to be held accountable.
“This type of violence cannot be tolerated,” GDC leaders wrote. “Enough is enough! We have continued to share concerns from the business community, but now it’s time for zero tolerance. Our Downtown deserves better, our community deserves better. And our partners agree.
After the assault on Simonson, Tusken says Hanson’s pretrial release was revoked.
A judge set Hanson’s bail at $25,000 for the latest offense and reinstated $10,000 bail for his original offense in April.
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