1/14/2003 Newsletter


  • Federal Mediation: Legal Action Filed to Force Olson to the Table
  • Press Statement on Federal Mediation
  • Strib: Court Document Filed in Attempt to Start Federal Mediation


Yesterday, members of the Federal Mediation Now coalition, of which CUAPB is a part, and members of the elected community negotiating team filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to force Police Chief Robert Olson to begin mediation as ordered by the City Council. Below is the press statement we issued and below that is coverage by that beacon of information, the Star-Tribune.

Note that the article restates the lie that the NAACP and Urban League complained about not being included, even after we have issued at least two press statements in which we informed them that they told us they had not complained to Olson. Moreover, in their own reporting after the November 16 meeting to elect community representatives, both organizations were quoted as saying, in essence, that they wish they were part of the team but would support mediation going forward without them.

We've been dying to issue a piece giving all of the background and explaining all of the shenanigans that have happened to delay mediation, but time constraints and the holidays did not allow it. However, look for this and an analysis on the Civilian Review Authority debacle soon.


We have called this press conference to announce that today we have filed a petition for a writ of mandamus against Police Chief Robert Olson to require him to begin federal mediation as mandated by the Minneapolis City Council. A writ of mandamus is a court order that compels a public official to carry out his or her duty.

This action has become necessary because Chief Olson has continued to delay the start of federal mediation allegedly because he has concerns about who will represent the community. He wants the community negotiating team, which was elected by the community at an open meeting, to accept individuals on the team who he would feel more comfortable sitting down with. However, these people were never elected by the community. Some of these individuals receive funding or are in other ways beholden to the city or police. In addition, there is an upper limit to the workable size of the negotiating team. Finally, Department of Justice protocols do not allow one side to select who sits at the table for the other side.

Ever since the City Council directed Chief Olson to begin mediation, he has used all kinds of excuses to delay the process. He started by feigning concern that the NAACP and Minneapolis Urban League were not part of the community negotiating team. However, these two organizations told us that they did not complain to Olson.

He has continued with behind-the-scenes efforts to insert his own choices into the community negotiating team. Now that the community negotiating team has firmly rebuffed his efforts, he has said that he will NEVER negotiate with us. Why is Olson so afraid to negotiate with us? Why is he trying to dilute our team?

Federal Mediation Now, a broad-based coalition, worked for months to push the city to agree to mediation. We will not allow a city employee, Chief Olson, to ignore the will of the City Council and the community and to continue to stall this process. It is a criminal act for Olson to ignore his duty to the city and community to mediate. Why should Chief Olson be allowed to break the law this way? It is time that the City force Olson to do his job.

Real people are experiencing real effects of Olson's continued delays of federal mediation. Since we started our efforts to bring federal mediation to Minneapolis, a number of people have been shot by Minneapolis police, including 12-year-old Julian Powell, who was shot in the doorway of his own home. Chris Burns was killed in his home by Minneapolis police in front of his significant other and four children. Another man was beaten and threatened with a gun by a drunk, off-duty police officer in downtown Minneapolis. Clearly, we have a police force that is out of control and badly in need of changes in policy and practice. We need federal mediation NOW!

Court Document Filed in Attempt to Start Federal Mediation
David Chanen
Star Tribune
Published Jan. 14, 2003

Minneapolis Police Chief Robert Olson should be ordered to start federal mediation to improve community relations because it has been mandated by the City Council, according to a petition filed Monday in Hennepin County District Court.

The legal action was made public as federal mediator Patricia Campbell Glenn was to meet with police representatives in Minneapolis today to talk about the first session tentatively scheduled for next Tuesday. Last month, Olson delayed mediation after the Urban League and the NAACP complained that they weren't represented.

Jill Clark, a lawyer and member of the community negotiating team, said in an interview Monday that Olson doesn't have authority to dictate who should represent the community. She said she thinks he is stalling because he might be embarrassed by what is said during mediation. Olson was on vacation Monday, but police spokeswoman Cyndi Barrington said the department doesn't discuss active or pending litigation.

The argument over who should represent the community has been pitched since an 11-member team chosen during a meeting Nov. 16 said it was ready to move forward with mediation.

Less than a week later, the City Council voted to begin weekly sessions for three months starting Dec. 10.

In the petition, the team says Olson notified team members in writing that they shouldn't begin mediation, and in doing so refused a direct order from the council.

A petition of this type is common when somebody perceives that a public official fails to fulfill a mandate. A hearing will be set, but Clark said the team doesn't want full-scale litigation.

"We thought we were at the point of just needing to pick a room to meet in," she said. "The chief has already wasted 30 days on the clock. He needs to fulfill his duty."

Several community leaders not chosen during the November meeting have attempted to be included without success. The team has said that everybody had a chance to be nominated.

The petition lists eight people as members of the team, including Clark; attorney Jill Waite; Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality; Yusuf Abdurahman of the Somali community; Julia Rupert representing issues of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community; Pablo Tapia from the Latino community; Pauline Thomas of the black community and Lee Pao Xiong from the Asian community. Other team members whose names did not appear on the petition are Chris Spotted Eagle, representing the American Indian community, and evangelist Mary Flowers Spratt.

Ron Edwards, a black activist and team member who has tried to add members to the community side, said the City Council needs to direct Olson to carry out the mandate because Olson is an agent of the council.

"We don't know if Chief Olson will not do mediation," Edwards said. "But if he now has to defend himself in court, I'm quite sure he won't go ahead with it."

Problems with mediation can't rest solely with Olson because the council decided it won't help with community selections, said City Council President Paul Ostrow.

"We would like to see a positive discussion come out of mediation," he said.

During a news conference Monday, Waite said mediator Campbell Glenn said that she wouldn't be coming to Minneapolis today. Edwards and Barrington said Campbell Glenn hadn't canceled her plans.

-- David Chanen is at [email protected].

Communities United Against Police Brutality
2104 Stevens Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

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