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Minneapolis plan to revamp police-review procedures gets hostile reception

It was not a love-in.

The meeting to discuss changes to the way Minneapolis processes complaints about police behavior attracted about 30 people Tuesday — and none of them were happy.

“This meeting is a lie and a fraud and a farce,” one participant, Michael Cavlan, said.

At issue is a plan that would merge two separate avenues for filing a complaint about police conduct into one new department and replace the Civilian Review Authority with a panel of civilians and police.

“We don’t want to complain about the police to the police,” said Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality. “It will actually make it dangerous for people to complain.”

Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights
Velma Korbel

The meeting started with Velma Korbel, director of the Civil Rights Department, explaining that she had come to listen.

Korbel said she would not be showing the PowerPoint explanation or answering questions about it because she already had done those things twice to pretty much the same group of people.

She had come to listen, and she got an earful.

“I have been offended about this process since the start,” said Peggy Katch, “and now tonight we are told we can get no answers to our questions. This is taking the civilian out of civilian review.”

 Currently a complaint about police behavior can be filed with the Civil Rights Department, which has two investigators, or with the Minneapolis Police Department’s Internal Affairs Unit, which has six sworn officers to investigate complaints.

The proposed plan would merge the two groups into the Office of Police Conduct Review.  All complaints would be filed there and assigned for investigation, mediation or the attention of an outside agency. The plan was created by staff from the two groups.

 “Obviously, we’re not going to get any answers tonight,” said Dave Bicking, who once served on the Civilian Review Authority and wanted to know what research had gone into developing the new plan.

One of the reasons for changing the process, cited at past meetings, has been the length of time it takes to process a complaint. The Civil Rights Department is still working on 2009 complaints.

“You won’t even know if your case was investigated by a police officer or a civilian,” said Bicking. “Most complainants say, ‘I just want to make sure this never happens to someone else.’ ”

Under the new plan, once a complaint has been investigated, it would be reviewed by a panel consisting of two civilians and two police officers. They would have three days to reach agreement on what action, if any, should be taken and would pass along their recommendations to the police chief

“Thanks, everybody, for your clarity and the light you are shedding on this joke,” said Janet Nye.  “This is horrible.  This is a culture of thugs.”

Under the current system, the results of the Civil Rights Department complaints are forwarded to the Civilian Review Authority. That panel can issue an opinion, but it is not binding on the police chief.

But under the proposed plan, the review panel’s recommendations do not require action or agreement from the police chief.

“They’ve already made their minds up,” said Gross. “These folks don’t give a damn about what you think.”

Council Member Cam Gordon disagreed.

‘”I think it makes a difference what you say,” he told the group as the hearing ended. “It was really important that people turned out for this meeting.”

The next public hearing on the topic is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 12 before the City Council’s Public Safety, Health and Civil Rights Committee.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/23/2012 - 10:35 am.

    IMO

    There has been enough misconduct documented within the MPD to warrant removing oversight from their in-house involvement.

    It would have been valuable to include how much has the city has paid out to settle abuse cases in the past 5 years.

  2. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 08/23/2012 - 03:38 pm.

    It’s unclear…

    …did they serve cheese with all that whine?

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/24/2012 - 08:44 am.

    Small govmnt strikes again.

    It doesn’t really matter how you handle complaints if the people investigating them don’t have the staff or resources to process complaints and issue judgements in a timely fashion. So you create a process without adequate resources and when it doesn’t work decide it has to be dismantled. The fact that judgements aren’t binding in either system has always been a fatal flaw.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/24/2012 - 10:37 am.

      Small government?

      If Minneapolis is emblematic of small government I shudder to think what the appropriate size might be for you Paul.

  4. Submitted by Janet Nye on 08/24/2012 - 03:45 pm.

    police oversight

    If the CRA as originally conceived were implemented according to the rules of its charter, it would be effective. The problem has been the direct defiance of Police Chief Dolan, and his apparently complete power over the decision to discipline officers. He has chosen not to. He has made a mockery of the CRA.

    There is a related problem in the police department of thugs moving up in the ranks in order to get them off the street. One such problem officer is Jason Anderson, who has been fired twice by the MPD itself but then re-instated by the Police Federation. These firings were due to Internal Affairs concerns, incidentally. Mr Anderson now works in Background Checks at City Hall, checking on the background of incoming officers. Another example of the move up the ladder by a troublemaker is “Million Dollar Mike” Sauro. He now teaches use of force to incoming officers and teaches them that blows to the head do not constitute deadly force.

    If the CRA were allowed to function according to its charter, there would be less complaints because problem officers would be dealt with and there would be the understanding that there would be consequences for brutal and unlawful officer behavior. The city would be safer and officers on the job would be safer and have a better working relationship with the citizens of Minneapolis.

    Part of the problem of course lies with RT Rybak, who hired Dolan and continues to support everything Dolan does. Then there’s the Public Safety Committee of the City Council, the majority of whom support Dolan, and of course, their DFL mayor. The message from the top, no matter what they may say, is that police brutality is going to be tolerated.

  5. Submitted by David couper on 08/25/2012 - 05:13 am.

    Improving Police

    I spent the first seven years of my career in the Mpls PD. I went back to college and led two departments for over 25 years. I think I know the problem here — it hasn’t changed much from 1962. How do you improve your police? How do you regain/begin trust? For insight and direction on this and other important police improvement issues, take a look at “Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation’s Police” (Amazon.com in US and EU). And the blog at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com/ where other current police improvement issues are discussed. Good luck and may we all experience not just good but great policing! Great policing is accomplished by police who are well-trained and led, restrained in their use of force, honest, and courteous to every citizen.

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