||The city and the state abolish civilian oversight of the police
On Saturday, April 7, a group of Occupados set up tents in Peavey Plaza. The police came and told them to take the tents down. They did and marched to Loring Park. They joined other Occupados at Loring Park and then marched up the Nicollet Mall. The police broke up their march and told them to move to the sidewalk. They did, but the police grabbed 12 of the demonstrators, many from the sidewalk, slammed them to the ground and arrested them. A KSTP cameraman was assaulted and had his camera thrown to the pavement and broken. The mayor had no comment on the police actions. Photo by Occupymn
On Friday, April 6, Governor ark Dayton signed into law SF1981, a
really terrible bill that guts community oversight of police. This law was pushed by the Minneapolis Police Federation, ever concerned
about the community’s access to complaint data and the potential that a good police chief might actually discipline some of their rogue
members. After we won our lawsuit opening up access to the data, they had to figure out another way to shut things down, and it’s a damned
shame that Dayton helped them. In a signing statement Dayton said “... serious concerns have been expressed about the Minneapolis
Civilian Review Authority, prompting the city to begin its own review.” Too bad this bill, which essentially guts the Civilian Review Authority, does absolutely nothing to improve the situation.
The city claims to have opposed the bill but did precious little to stop it.
The “city’s review” that Dayton refers to is a secret collusion between Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, City Attorney Susan Segal and Police Chief Tim Dolan to fuse the CRA into the police
department’s internal affairs unit. This is being framed as a “business process improvement,” but nothing could be further from reality. No members of the community or the CRA board were involved
or consulted in this monstrously disrespectful proposal. In fact, the
CRA board and community would have remained in the dark if we hadn’t
busted out the plan in early March. As a result of our exposure,
Korbel was forced to make a presentation to the CRA board at its
March 7 meeting, and when Korbel ran out of the room before the
community got to comment, the community took over the meeting—we were
not going to be ignored.
The plan was presented again at the April 4 CRA board meeting—this
time by Dolan, Segal and Korbel—and it didn’t sound any better the
second time around. Again, the presenters beat a fast path out of the
room before the community could comment but at least some of the new
CRA board members who were seated at the April 4 meeting nailed them
with some tough questions.
There are several problems with the city’s proposal.
• Determination panels would consist of two hand-picked “community
members” and two police officers selected by the chief. The so-called
community members wouldn’t even have a requirement to live in
Minneapolis. If these community members are in any way genuine, we
would anticipate a number of two-two ties on complaints. At the March
meeting, Korbel stated she would be the tie-breaker—a problematic
notion for several reasons. This changed at the April presentation,
when Dolan stated that any two-two determinations would be forwarded
to the chief for discipline. Nothing about this is in writing, of
course. He also didn’t say it, but no doubt he would use the fact of
a tie as the excuse for not disciplining.
• So-called community members who hear cases would be completely
separate from a seven-member “civilian policy and outreach board.”
Policy proposals would no longer come from those who hear cases that
could inform the need for policy changes. How would these policy board
members know what to recommend?
• The involvement of the civil rights director and the police
department representatives in the process not only dismantles
community oversight, but destroys the “fire wall” between the CRA and
the rest of the city. This barrier was carefully crafted in the 2001
CRA redesign to eliminate the possibility that city attorneys would
milk CRA complaints for chargeable offenses against complainants. The
fire wall created safety for complainants and without it, people who
file complaints face retaliation by a city that is far more interested
in covering for brutal cops and avoiding litigation than ensuring
justice for community members harmed by police.
• The proposal states that the CRA office would exist “on paper
only.” Community members with complaints would be required to bring
those complaints to the very department responsible for brutalizing
them. We have significant documentation of people being retaliated
against after bringing complaints to internal affairs, making the
merging of CRA into internal affairs dangerous for the community.
This was certainly anticipated—perhaps desired—as Korbel pointed out
during her presentation that with less complaints, the remaining
complaints should be processed faster.
Interestingly, during testimony at the Capitol by the Minneapolis Police Federation and
in Korbel’s presentation to the CRA board, both advocated for the St.
Paul model of civilian review. Here’s the problem: The St. Paul model
isn’t even real civilian review. In that model, board members only
examine investigations by internal affairs and offer their opinion on
the quality of those investigations. Not only is this hardly community
oversight, but complainants still have to report their complaints to
the police. We are aware of a number of these complaints that never
made it to the point of an actual investigation, having been thrown
out by the cops. Further, people are often discouraged from filing
complaints in the first place. The bottom line: Our community
deserves much better than the ineffectual St. Paul model.
At their April meeting, the new CRA board members formed a working
group to develop their own “business process improvement” proposal.
We applaud the chutzpah of these new board members, who aren’t afraid
to jump into the fray and push for what they believe in. We’ll be
giving them our suggestions and supporting their efforts to snatch
back control of the CRA from forces in the city and MPD who are
hell-bent on destroying it.
We’ll continue to follow this situation closely, but we encourage you to
attend our community forum Thursday, April 19, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the
Minneapolis Urban League, 2100 Plymouth Ave. N., Minneapolis,
and the May 2 CRA board meeting at 6 p.m. at City Hall, Room 241.