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Minneapolis plan to revamp police-review procedures gets hostile reception

The meeting on how Minneapolis processes complaints about police behavior attracted about 30 people — and none of them were happy.

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.’ ”

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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.