City of Saint Paul Names Axel Henry New Chief of Police

The Mayor of Saint Paul announced his selection for the city’s next chief of police in a press conference on Tuesday, November 1.

Mayor Melvin Carter named Axel Henry as St Paul’s new chief of police.

Henry has been with the Saint Paul Police Department since 1998 and currently serves as the Commander for the Narcotics, Financial Intelligence and Human Trafficking Division.

“I understand the great potential that we have and how well we can establish the best possible responses working as a community together,” Henry said during Tuesday’s press conference. “My 24 years in the Saint Paul Police Department have offered me great opportunities but obviously all of those opportunities are really truly responsibilities and none is greater than the current one before me.”

The police chief will serve a term of six years. Credit: City of Saint Paul via Storyful

Video transcript


- Quick mic check. 1, 2, 3, 4. Quick mic check. Good? OK.


- Can you be tighter?

- Yeah, you guys can get nice and tight in the middle here. Yeah, come on in.


- Can we bring some folks over here?


- Yep, it's a little heavy over on this side. Perfect.


- And I think I know what you wanted.


MELVIN CARTER: Good morning, and thank you all for being here. I just told Commander Henry I give press conferences here all the time, and it's never this crowded. But I appreciate you all coming out here with us this morning. I am humbled and grateful to stand here alongside our city leaders, our neighborhood safety team, our emergency and optimal response teams, and community stakeholders to announce and congratulate my selection for police Chief, St. Paul Police Commander, Axel Henry.

Today culminates a months-long, community-led process to select a police Chief who will serve the city of St. Paul for the next six years. I said from the beginning that getting this right was far more important than getting it done fast, and I'm really pleased and grateful for all of the members of our community, all of the members of our police department who chipped in to help us get this done right.

I want to thank our city council for convening a broad array of voices to serve on the police Chief examining committee co-chaired by Sasha Cotton and former St. Paul city council President, Kathy Lantry. Thank you both, Sasha and Kathy, for leading this committee through a diligent review of all of our candidates who applied for this role and for moving forward five exceptional candidates.

Four of those five finalists were from our own St. Paul Police Department, which speaks volumes about the expertise, the integrity, and the commitment to community that our St. Paul officers carry with them every single day. I am grateful to all of our candidates who applied. I'm grateful to all of our finalists who went through this process with us.

Specifically, I want to express my gratitude to Commander, Pamela Berrigan, Senior Commander, Kurt Hallstrom, and Assistant Chief, Stacy Murphy, for their honorable leadership of our police department.

Your participation throughout this process and your presence here is further proof of the high caliber of our St. Paul Police officers. I also want to extend my deep gratitude to interim Chief, Jeremy Ellison, who has served our department incredibly well during this time of transition.

His leadership and counsel has been critical to ensuring continuity and consistency of service over these last several months. I know he will continue to work alongside our new Chief to carry out the department's public safety mission. Chief Ellison, on behalf of the city of St. Paul, all of our leaders, officers, and civilians in our police department along with our entire community, we give you our sincere thanks and gratitude. We thank you for stepping into this role.

Our St. Paul Police Department embodies the mission of trusted service with respect. I'm confident that as Chief, Axel Henry will uphold the highest level of service our community has come to expect as we work to move our capital city forward. First joining the St. Paul Police Department in 1998, his past 24 years of service to our city has included roles as police officer, Sergeant, Commander in the Central District, and Senior Commander of the Eastern District, where he led 105 personnel.

He's also served in command positions in the Office of the Chief and in the family and sexual violence unit. At the start of the pandemic, he served as logistics Chief for our emergency response. He currently serves as Commander of narcotics, financial intelligence, and human trafficking, a position he has held since 2019. Axel Henry has spearheaded our body-worn camera program, designed and led the blueprint for safety program, and has more than 20 years of experience as a trainer and as a use of force expert.

As we move forward with our forward-thinking, community-driven, community-first public safety framework in St. Paul, Commander Henry's entire lifetime and legacy of service embodies the values that we are seeking to advance. He has command experience in every division. He's a St. Paul native and a graduate of our St. Paul public schools who exemplifies the values of this community.

It's a vision that we have built together, because we know that emergency response is one critical piece of our broader comprehensive public safety puzzle. We are building in St. Paul the most coordinated, comprehensive, and data-driven approach to public safety that our city has ever endeavored, and our incoming Chief Henry will be the perfect person to lead us forward.

Per our city charter, my appointment today is a subject to approval of the city council, a formal process that will commence in the coming weeks. I look forward to Axel Henry leading our police department as Chief and working with my office, our office of Neighborhood Safety and optimal response teams to continue driving our shared vision forward. Thank you all for being here, and with that, I turn it over to our incoming Chief, Commander Axel Henry.

AXEL HENRY: Not used to standing on a little platform here, so that's unusual for me. Thank you, Mayor. I greatly appreciate this. To the Mayor, council President Brendmoen, members of our city council, the deputy Mayor, city leaders, colleagues, sworn and our professional staff in St. Paul, and all of our community members, thank you so much for this opportunity.

I'm standing in front of everyone today and alongside all these great leaders to humbly accept serving as the next Chief of police here in St. Paul. It's a very rich legacy. There are very big shoes to fill, and my intention is that we are gonna move forward. We have the greatest potential possible.

As the Mayor said, as someone who grew up in St. Paul, who's a graduate of our public schools, and who was basically raised by this city and who now calls this city my home, I understand the great potential that we have and how well we can establish the best possible responses as a community working together. My 24 years in the St. Paul Police Department have offered me great opportunities, but obviously, all of those opportunities are really, truly responsibilities. And none is greater than the current one before me.

I've had the opportunity to serve at nearly every assignment you can have in St. Paul, and I've learned from all of those. But we will be relying as a group of people sworn and civilian on our police department to be successful. Each and every day, we work together to support our neighborhood safety and co-produce a public safety platform with our community members that really serves our community.

We remain unwavering in our attempts to make sure that we offer St. Paul what it is capable of, and what it deserves for our future. We've experienced a lot of challenges over the years and nothing more challenging than the last few years for certain, but this has now created an opportunity for us. It's an opportunity for us to all come together as a community and really bring about the realization of the vision that the Mayor was talking about. We can co-produce a public safety strategy for this city that can be a role model for the entire country.

Success leaves clues. We know how to do this, and we do it together. So now is the time for us all to come together. I would be remiss if I didn't take this moment to thank interim Chief Ellison and the whole staff that he collected. Their team has been crucial in holding together this process while the selection process took place. Their work is not done. We are all going to be coming together and pushing forward in the best possible way.

To my fellow finalists who have engaged in this process, it wasn't difficult-- it was a very difficult and long process, but it really did represent what the Mayor spoke about. That we have great talent in this department and in this city, and just like we have inside the department, we're all members of the same community. We can all come together, and we have to leverage everyone's talent to be successful going forward.

To all the officers and our professional civilian staff on the department, thank you. You are truly the engine that drives this process. You are the real heroes, the workers that are doing the work every day. We are up here trying to guide, and lead, and inspire that process, but we know that nothing really happens without all of you. And so we appreciate that.

And to the members of our community. We are your community-- fellow community members, and we are going to work together. For all you that live, work, play, grow, and thrive in this city, I am honored to serve you as the next St. Paul Police Chief. And I want to make sure that we all know that, again, this is us coming together.

There are a lot of troubles that people will point to, but I am inspired by the potential of this city and this community and how we operate together. Before I step down, I have to make sure I think one person in particular, and that's Ma'Khia Griffin, my partner.

If anybody deserves a big thanks in this situation, it's her. She stood by me the entire way. She's doing wonderful work in the community herself, and we hope to be examples of how we can all do this together. But that's all I have to say for now, but thank you so much. I'm honored to be standing here in front of you.

MELVIN CARTER: Thank you all for being here. We've said it before, and we'll say it again. Keeping our community safe is our absolutely most first goal. It's our most critical goal. It's the foundation upon which all of our other ambitions must be built. The work of our police department alongside our fire department, our Office of Neighborhood Safety, and the comprehensive public safety infrastructure that we're building here in St. Paul is absolutely critical.

Particularly right now as we stand at the crossroads of both a post-pandemic increase in violent crime and a post George Floyd increase in demands for a new style of policing. Our St. Paul Police Department has always been on the cutting edge of that work, and our St. Paul Police Department will always stay on the cutting edge of that work. I'm excited for this next chapter. Thank you all for coming out today.