3/4/2012 Newsletter

Contents:

  • Stop the Gutting of Independent Police Oversight
  • Copwatch Training
  • Judicial Election Empowerment Project (JEEP) Meeting
  • Cut the CRA(p): Community Forum on the Future of the CRA
  • MPD Could Join [Take Over] Oversight
  • Bills Would "Reign In" Police Review
  • Vermont Inmates Hide Pig in Official Police Car Decal

ALL OUT ON WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7:
STOP THE GUTTING OF INDEPENDENT OVERSIGHT OF COPS

JOIN US AT:
Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority Board Meeting
Wednesday, March 7 at 5:30 p.m.
Minneapolis City Hall, Room 241
350 S. 5th Street, Minneapolis

In their latest move to destroy independent oversight of police by the community, the city has been holding secret meetings between CRA and internal affairs staff.  The outcome of these meetings?  An outrageous proposal to merge the CRA into the Internal Affairs department, gutting the ability for the community to report police misconduct to an agency outside of the police department. 

Intrepid activist Chuck Turchick learned about the secret meetings by accident and shared the news with CRA board members, who had never been told about the scheme to destroy the CRA.  As a result, Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, Police Chief Tim Dolan, and City Attorney Susan Segal are forced to finally share the scheme with the CRA board at their meeting on Wednesday.  A copy of this rotten plan is attached and below is an article by the Randy Furst with the Strib, which has been doing a good job of covering the issue.  Can you imagine a situation in which the agency overseeing the cops is controlled by the very cops they are supposed to oversee?  Talk about a formula for failure.

We're planning to be at Wednesday's meeting to voice the concerns of the community. MAKE YOUR PLANS NOW TO JOIN US! SPEAK OUT AGAINST THIS PLAN TO PUT COPS IN CHARGE OF THE COMMUNITY'S COMPLAINT PROCESS.

In the meantime, the police federation is working behind the scenes on another way to gut community oversight of police.  They have put forward a bill in the legislature that would prohibit all CRAs in the state from issuing findings of fact in complaints and, instead, they could just issue an opinion on whether or not the case had merit.  The Strib's article on a this legislation http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/140087963.html sums up the legislation very well.  Tony Cornish, chief sponsor of the house bill and a former police chief told the Strib, "Basically civilian review boards very rarely know anything about police tactics or use of force" implying that the community is just too stupid to judge the cops.  The fallacy of this argument is that CRA board members get use of force training from the cops themselves.  Further, is this guy saying that juries are not fit to judge the actions of cops in police misconduct cases?

That might be one of the main motivators behind this legislation, as revealed by Minneapolis Police Federation head John Delmonico, who told the Strib that even if the chief does not impose discipline, the finding of fact remains on an officers' record. The findings, if not sustained by the chief, are not public, but they get disclosed in court cases anyway.  What they are really worried about, then, is that civil rights attorneys will find out about all the complaints against cops that are never disciplined and will be able to show a pattern of failure of the city to address the issues and reign in the cops.

The actual legislation, from the state website: https://www.revisor.mn.gov/revisor/pages/search_status/status_detail.php?b=House&f=HF2409&ssn=0&y=2011   This legislation wouldn't just affect the Minneapolis CRA but would destroy the ability of other communities to develop oversight models with any real teeth.

The house bill, HF2409, passed out of the republican-dominated Public Safety and Crime Prevention committee easily, despite public opposition.  It is on its way to the house floor.  There is now a Senate version of the bill, SF1981, which has been referred to the Judiciary and Public Safety committee.  PLEASE, PLEASE take a few minutes to contact members of that committee.  The list of members and their contact information is at http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/committees/committee_bio.php?cmte_id=3053&ls=#members .  Let them know why it's vital to a democracy for the community to have real oversight of police.

To follow these or any other bills in the Minnesota legislature, go to http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/leg/billsublogin.asp and set up a MyBills account.


OTHER UPCOMING EVENTS

Copwatch Training
March 8 at 6:00 p.m.
720 Washington Ave SE (US Bank Building), Minneapolis
Learn to effectively monitor and document police conduct while preserving your own rights and teaching others about theirs. 

Judicial Election Empowerment Project (JEEP) Meeting
Monday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m.
Walker Church
3100 16th Ave S, Minneapolis
Judicial misconduct is a huge issue in Minnesota.  We have uncovered collusion among judges and manipulation of outcomes in some of our own cases.  We know it goes on.  A number of people met last week to launch a new coalition to take on this very important issue.  We agreed that we need to work on legislation, advocacy for people affected by judicial misconduct, continued courtwatch to document conduct, and outreach to educate and involve the community.  There are two proposed pieces of legislation this session that will increase judicial accountability to the community and one really bad piece of legislature that would eliminate the ability to elect judges. We'll be working to make the community aware of these bills and getting people to take action on them.  One other area needing immediate attention is the case of Jill Clark, who has come under severe attack for exposing judicial corruption. Rather than dealing with the documented corruption she has complained about, they are retaliating against her for complaining.  You can follow her situation on her blog at www.jillclarkspeaks.com.

Judges have a profound impact on people's lives--things that happen in court alter people's futures immeasurably.  There is a reason Minnesota has the highest rate of overprosecution and overconviction of Blacks in the entire country.  Get involved in increasing community oversight of the judges that are locking away huge numbers of people of color.

Cut the CRA(p): Community Forum on the Future of the CRA
April 19 at 5:30 p.m.
Minneapolis Urban League
2100 Plymouth Avenue N, Minneapolis
By mid-April, we'll know a lot more about what is happening with attacks on the CRA.  It will be a great time for a forum for the community to weigh in on which way forward.  Please join us for what promises to be a very spicy discussion on the failings of the current CRA and whether it should be defended or scrapped.


Minneapolis Police Could Join Watchdog Group
RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
February 29, 2012
http://m.startribune.com/local/?id=140974873&c=y

Investigations of police misconduct in Minneapolis would be handled by a joint team of police and civilian investigators under a proposal that revamps the city's troubled civilian police oversight board.

Following the investigation, a panel of two police officers and two civilians would determine whether they believe misconduct occurred and would present their determination to the police chief, who would make the final call on discipline.

Since it was created more than 20 years ago, the Minneapolis Police Civilian Review Authority (CRA) investigations have been independent of the police department. But its findings are increasingly ignored, and the CRA board issued a report in December saying it had no confidence inPpolice Chief Tim Dolan because he rarely followed its recommendation to discipline officers.

A copy of a presentation describing the proposed "Police Conduct Oversight Commission" and dated Feb. 9 was obtained on Wednesday by the Star Tribune.

Velma Korbel, director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, declined to discuss the proposal, saying it was subject to change and she had to talk first with Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council.

The proposal predicts there will be "potential push back," noting that "some community members will believe that the CRA will lose its status as an independent body" and that "some community members may believe that the CRA has been co-opted" and "that it is essentially the [police] internal affairs office."

But the document also notes advantages, including more citizen participation, efficiency and confidence in the review process because of "increased fairness and maintenance of the integrity of investigations " and "consistency in outcomes."

Screening of complaints against the police would be reviewed and assigned by supervisors from the commission and the police internal affairs unit, which could dismiss the case, send it to mediation or authorize an investigation. A team of investigators from the internal affairs unit and two from the commission would investigate the claims, then send them to the four-member panel, whose findings would go to the chief.

John Delmonico, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, expressed dismay on Wednesday that the union had not been consulted before the proposal was developed. He said the union should be able to negotiate over the proposal since it was a condition of employment.

Noting that the police internal affairs unit already has seven investigators and the CRA has two, Delmonico asked, "Are they really changing it or are they repainting the bedroom and calling it a new house?"

Dave Bicking, a former CRA member, told a City Council public safety committee meeting on Wednesday that the proposal "gutted" the civilian oversight panel.


Bills Would Reign in Police Review Board
RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
February 23, 2012
http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/140087963.html

  • Legislative move would water down the authority of Minneapolis' civilian board to issue findings of fact in potential discipline cases.

The Minneapolis police union has gone to the Capitol to try to limit the power of an already troubled civilian oversight board that investigates police misconduct.

Bills introduced in the House and Senate at the instigation of the Minneapolis Police Federation would prohibit the city's Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) from issuing a "finding of fact" that misconduct took place, limiting its role to a recommendation about the "merits of a complaint" against a police officer.

The authority's outgoing chairman says the bills are an attempt to dismantle the board, something the bills' supporters deny.

By city ordinance, the authority cannot impose discipline, but the ordinance gives it power to issue findings of fact in cases of alleged police misconduct. The CRA forwards its findings to Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan, who cannot conduct his own investigation or revise the findings. He must decide whether to impose discipline based on the CRA's findings.

The bills come at a time that city officials, including some in the police department, have been working behind the scenes to make changes to the authority, which sees most of its recommendations for discipline rejected. Dolan has declined to impose discipline in 112 of the 129 cases where the authority recommended it since 2009.

Asked why the police federation did not take the proposal to the City Council, John Delmonico, the group's president, said, "We have worked with the city to do two or three revamps of the Civilian Review Authority. It has fallen on deaf ears."

He said that while he supports civilian review, the authority's investigations are "inadequate and incomplete" and even if the chief does not impose discipline, the finding of fact remains on an officers' record. The findings, if not sustained by the chief, are not public, but Delmonico said they get disclosed in court cases anyway.

He said the chief, not a civilian authority, should issue findings of fact.

Don Bellfield, outgoing CRA board chairman, said the bills "would essentially dismantle the CRA." "The federation thinks, for some reason, that citizens, regular civilians, shouldn't have anything to do with the police department."

Council member Cam Gordon, who favors civilian oversight of police, criticized the bills. "Confidence and trust in the police force is something the residents really value," he said, "And an effective civilian review authority has the potential to help with that, and, in the end, will make it easier for the police to do a better job." He added "it's not appropriate for the Legislature to determine what kind of oversight we want to have for our police department."

But Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, a former police chief and one of the bill's co-authors, said, "Minneapolis shouldn't be any different from anywhere else in the state."

"Basically civilian review boards very rarely know anything about police tactics or use of force and, in my 36 years of law enforcement, I would much rather trust a police supervisor somewhere in the chain of command than I would a civilian review board. I think there is much more of a chance of bias coming in from the civilian review board than I think there is bias coming from the police profession." He said by law, police chiefs must take and investigate complaints, and if they don't issue findings, they can lose their licenses.


 

On the Lighter Side

Vermont inmates hide pig in official police car decal
By Zach Howard | Reuters
http://news.yahoo.com/vermont-inmates-hide-pig-official-police-car-decal-004403610.html

(Reuters) - Inmates working at a Vermont correctional unit's print shop managed to sneak a prank image of a pig into a state police crest that is emblazoned on police cars, and 30 cruisers sported the design for the last year, officials said on Thursday.

The official crest depicts a spotted cow against a background of snowy mountains, but the inmates' version featured one of the cow's spots shaped like a pig in an apparent reference to the pejorative word for police, state police spokeswoman Stephanie Dasaro said.

"It dishonors the memory of those past and present members, especially for those who have lost their lives in the line of duty," Dasaro said.

Vermont contracts with correctional facilities employing prisoners to make some print products, including the cruiser decals. Police said someone who works at the print shop changed the emblem from the officially sanctioned design.

A police employee noticed the prank on Wednesday and reported it. Police said the 60 16-inch door decals would be removed as soon as it was practical.

The "source and timing" of the change to the design is under investigation, Dasaro said.

"While some may find humor in the decal modifications, the joke unfortunately comes at the expense of the taxpayers," Police Major Bill Sheets said in a statement.


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