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Minneapolis civilian review board candidates get warm committee reception

The plan to end of the Civilian Review Authority as the arbiter of disputes between citizens and the Minneapolis Police Department brought crowds of vocal opponents to City Hall.

But the public hearing this week to appoint three people to the replacement Police Conduct Review Panel was relatively quick and quiet.

“They come highly recommended,” said Velma Korbel, director of the Civil Rights Department and the moving force behind the plan creating the new Police Conduct Review Panel, which merges police and civilian complaint investigators into one team.

Two of the candidates were previous chairs of the Civilian Review Authority. The third candidate is a member of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission.

There will be an additional four candidates for the review panel and another seven for the Police Conduct Oversight Committee, Korbel said Wednesday, addressing members of the City Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Health Committee.

Meanwhile, cases are being investigated but cannot be closed until there is a review panel in place.

“The Civilian Review Authority was quite quickly and abruptly disbanded,” said Dave Bicking, who has been an opponent of the new plan. He asked what was being done for those who had complaints they wanted investigated by civilians. 

The new plan allows a person filing a complaint to ask for an investigation by a civilian, but that choice is not guaranteed.

“It seems to me, frankly, that this isn’t being taken seriously by the council,” said Bicking, a former CRA Board member.

Robert Briscoe is a former Chicago police officer who has served as chair of the CRA and asked to be appointed to the new review panel. In his application, he told of being forced to resign from the Chicago Department for failure to inventory a weapon. 

“What we did was try to give a Vietnam veteran a break,” said Briscoe. “We made a mistake.”

Briscoe told council members that he and his partner were called to a domestic dispute where the veteran was threatening his wife with a gun. They did not want to arrest the man so they confiscated the gun, dismantled it and tossed it into Lake Michigan.

When they got back to the station, the man was there demanding his weapon.  Briscoe was forced to resign.

“I spent 10 years as a police officer, and I understand what police officers go through,” said Briscoe, adding, “I also understand what civilians go through.”

Robert Bellfield also served as chair of the CRA and is retired from the Metropolitian Council, where he worked in human resources.

“It’s just giving back to the community” Bellfield told committee members of his desire to serve.

Michelle Monteiro is an assistant Hennepin County public defender and adjunct faculty member at the William Mitchell College of Law. She has served on the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission since 2006.

“I have a good ability to work with people with a wide variety of backgrounds, including police officers,” she said.

Council Member Don Samuels, who chairs the council committee, praised the three candidates and noted what he called the fine balance of their experience. The committee approved all three.

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