7/23/2012 Newsletter

Contents:

  • MPLS Moving Quickly to Destroy Community Oversight of Police
  • Chuck Turchick: Bye-bye to the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority
  • Chaos Erupts at Minneapolis CRA/Internal Affairs Merger Discussion

MPLS MOVING QUICKLY TO DESTROY COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT OF POLICE--TAKE ACTION NOW!

Hearing July 25 at 1:30 p.m.
Call 311 Tuesday and Wednesday: Tell your Council Member to Vote NO on CRA Proposal

In a surprise move, City Council member Don Samuels introduced a highly-contentious proposal to merge the Civilian Review Authority (the city agency outside of the police department that takes complaints on police) under the police department's Internal Affairs Unit. This would not only wipe out any vestige of community oversight of police but would actually make it dangerous to file a complaint. Under the current CRA ordinance, there is a fire wall that prevents the city attorney's office from mining complaint files for chargeable offenses. The same has never been true for complaints filed with Internal Affairs--one of the main reasons CUAPB has always steered people away from complaining to the IAU. This new proposal wipes out the fire wall. People would not only be subject to having their complaints used against them for other criminal charges but could also be charged with "false reporting of police brutality"--a law the Police Federation pushed hard for a few years back. While some court rulings have called into question that law, it hasn't been removed from the books and could easily be used to discourage complaints.

Why do they work so hard to gut community oversight and limit complaints? It's easy. Complaints are public data--data shows patterns of police misconduct and the city's failure to reign in their cops. That data helps lawyers in liability suits against the city. Rather than control the cops (which would make them unpopular with the union) city officials prefer to see community members abused by police prosecuted on trumped up charges that can prevent a liability suit in the first place. This has been the city's risk management strategy. The Civilian Review Authority has been a hindrance to that.

The city has chipped away at the powers and effectiveness of the CRA for years, by putting members on the board who were either disengaged or outright hostile to community oversight, by changing their ordinance to reduce their powers, by pushing for a state law that strips away the ability of the CRA to issue findings of fact, and by trying to make their data non-public (our lawsuit busted that out). Now, they intend to finish off community oversight for good. Chuck Turchick's article below explains in good detail the phony "business process improvement" process that was carried out in secret to destroy community oversight.

Folks, we don't have to take this. FIRST, WE NEED TO STOP THIS MOVE BY THE CITY THEN WE NEED TO PUSH HARD FOR REAL COMMUNITY OVERSIGHT OF POLICE. Here's what you can do:

1) Call 311 and ask to speak to your city council member. Tell your city council member to put a stop to this phony 'business process improvement" of the CRA. Demand that any public hearing on this proposed ordinance change be postponed to allow for community input.

2) Attend the Public Safety Committee meeting on Wednesday, July 25 at 1:30 p.m. Even though it's not a public hearing, we can make our presence and concerns known.


Bye-bye to the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority

By Chuck Turchick, Free Speech Zone
July 20, 2012
http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2012/07/20/free-speech-zone-bye-bye-minneapolis-civilian-review-authority?print=1

The Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) is about to be restructured again. Over the years, there have been several CRA restructurings or redesigns. This one is different.

This proposal, developed under the euphemistic bureaucratese of "business process improvement (BPI)," has been entirely top down -- no community involvement at all, not even from the current CRA board.

Last fall, meetings between CRA Manager Lee Reid and Lt. Travis Glampe, head of MPD's Internal Affairs Unit, were begun under this BPI process. The CRA board at that time was kept completely in the dark. They didn't even know this process was underway. They only found out about it when a citizen informed them that a member of the City Council had asked a question about it at a November 2011 Public Safety, Civil Rights & Health Committee meeting.

Then, in February, at a legislative committee hearing about a bill that would limit CRA hearing panels to "recommendations" rather than "determinations" and eliminate any "findings of fact," a copy of the proposal was leaked from attorneys representing the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. The proposal would merge the CRA with Internal Affairs, have police officers sit on hearing panels as well as citizens, provide no guarantee to a complainant that his or her complaint was being investigated by a non-MPD investigator, eliminate the physical office of the CRA, and in effect do away with any serious civilian oversight of the police department.

With the Council Member's question in November and the leaked proposal in February, the cat was out of the bag on this secret process. While in all likelihood the CRA board itself was going to be totally bypassed in developing this restructuring proposal, Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, who seemingly was the major force behind this process, had no choice but to bring the proposal to the CRA board. She did so at the board's March monthly meeting. She made a presentation, listened to some questions and comments -- mostly negative -- from board members, and left the meeting before hearing from any of the two dozen or so community people who had come to express their outrage at the process and the substance of this proposal. She said she would listen to the tape.

The minutes of that meeting report that those Ms. Korbel identified as "stakeholders" included the CRA board and the community. But there clearly had been no intention to consult with the board, and there has been absolutely no outreach to the community on this proposal. Past CRA redesigns have involved community people from the outset -- providing input, sitting on committees, and evaluating proposals as they were developed. Not this time. It has been all top-down, a curious process for an agency that was created solely because of pressure from the bottom up.

After the public comment portion of that March CRA board meeting, the board voted 4-1 with one abstention to reject the BPI initiative that Ms. Korbel had presented.

At the April monthly meeting of the CRA board, Ms. Korbel brought Police Chief Tim Dolan and City Attorney Susan Segal with her for further discussion. Ms. Segal reiterated an argument that Director Korbel had made for the merger: This way one wouldn't have to choose where to bring a complaint between the CRA and the IAU, and the outcome would not differ depending on the complainant's choice. Such an argument, of course, is absurd. It totally misses the point why the CRA was created in the first place. It was created because people didn't trust the police department to investigate itself. It was created precisely TO GIVE A CHOICE, a choice that now will be taken away.

Several new CRA board members had been appointed in March, and the newly constituted board quickly formed an ad hoc committee to come up with an alternative proposal to this dismantling of the CRA. The board passed the alternative, submitted it to the drafters of the dismantling proposal and to the City Council, and heard nothing back.

Then, at the City Council meeting on July 20, Public Safety Committee Chair Don Samuels introduced the first reading of an ordinance amendment that will restructure the CRA. What is in the proposal is unknown. My guess is that it is substantially Director Korbel's initial proposal of merging the CRA and Internal Affairs.

What is known is that there has been no public input at all, that the CRA board was not given the courtesy of a response to its much different alternative restructuring, and that the CRA is likely on the rocks.

Whatever the proposal now includes, it will be presented at the Public Safety Committee meeting this coming Wednesday, July 25, 1:30 p.m., Room 317 City Hall, to be followed by discussion from committee members. There likely will be a public hearing before that committee, same time, same place, two weeks later on August 8.

The process has been atrocious; the substance is even worse. But without significant expression of community outrage, we likely will be saying good-bye to the whole concept of civilian oversight of police in our city.


Chaos Erupts at Minneapolis CRA/Internal Affairs Merger Discussion

By Sheila Regan, TC Daily Planet
March 08, 2012
http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2012/03/08/chaos-erupts-minneapolis-crainternal-affairs-merger-discussion?print=1

A Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) meeting at City Hall descended into near-chaos March 7, following a presentation by Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel, who spoke about the city’s proposal to join the CRA with the Internal Affairs Unit for processing complaints against the police department. After giving the presentation, Korbel left the meeting, to a huge outcry by citizens attending the meeting who planned to speak during the public comment section. The citizens criticized both the proposal itself, which they believe reduces the authority of CRA, and that citizens haven’t been given any input into the process.

According to the agenda for the meeting, Korbel was to provide the update on the “Business Process Improvement” initiative along with Minneapolis Police Department Chief Tim Dolan and City Attorney Susan Segal, but neither Dolan nor Segal was present.

In her presentation, Korbel stated that a small group of staff from the Police Department, the CRA and from the City Attorney’s office began working on “top to bottom” look at the CRA process this summer. She said the group was sponsored by the Chief of Police, the City Attorney, and Korbel herself. “A couple of weeks into the review," Korbel said, "what was quickly realized was that the external complaint handling was not just about the CRA but also about the Internal Affairs Division,” which also handles complaints against police officers. The group looked at other models across the country, including Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, as well as St. Paul. While they were developing the proposal, the group approached “policy makers inside the city,” she said, including the mayor and the city council “to find out if they were supportive of the process,” before they began the process of engaging in the community, she said.

In January, the working group came up with a draft proposal, and met with Mayor R.T. Rybak and City Council Chair Barbara Johnson, both of whom were supportive, Korbel said.

According to Korbel, the new policy is “a radical change.” In the proposal, the CRA and the Internal Affairs Unit would be combined, forming a new body called the “Police Conduct Oversight Commission.” Complaints, except criminal or management complaints, would be screened by the CRA Assistant Director Samuel Reid and Internal Affairs commander Lt. Travis Glampe, and would then be assigned to categories of mediation, investigation, dismissal, or Precinct Supervisor.

Complaints that were determined to need investigation would be looked at by two CRA investigators and seven IA investigators, who would make a finding of facts. The investigation would then go to the review stage, in which the CRA Director and Internal Affairs Commander would sign off on the fact-finding. Finally, the complaint would go to a Determination Panel, made up of two civilians (appointed by the mayor and city council) and two police officers. In case of a tie, Korbel herself would cast the deciding vote. Finally, the complaint would go on to the Chief of Police, who would ultimately decide the disciplinary decision, according to Korbel.

Korbel said the current proposal to the Mayor and City Council is for 14 members of a Police Conduct Oversight Commission. Seven of the members would have roles and responsibilities similar to what the CRA board now has, such as outreach, policy, review, and training. They would not, however be responsible for handling of complaints. The other seven people, who would ultimately be seated two at a time on determination panels, would be appointed as well by the mayor and city council, but would have an “analytic background” and be “independent thinkers.” They would not need to be Minneapolis residents, but could be business owners or work in the city.

In a question and answer session with CRA Board members after her presentation, CRA board member Justin Terrell (who announced he was leaving the board) asked Korbel if the working group would be seeking input from the board. Korbel responded that the CRA board would have input, but also said that she wanted “to get things moving.”

“I don’t want to create an expectation here,” she said. “I have gotten direction from the city council and the mayor that we need to bring back to them responses to all of those stakeholders. We want to be as clear as we can on the process with some changes. In terms of wholesale change ­ I don’t think that’s something that can apply. I don’t want to get to the next budget cycle and not have something moving.”

CRA member Mary Pargo stated that with all the extra citizens in the room (about 25, besides the CRA members), “something is not clicking right.” Pargo asked Korbel to clarify whether the Civil Rights department and the CRA were being meshed together.

Korbel responded that the decision that CRA would be a component of the Civil Rights department happened a few years ago. She hoped the changes to be “concrete” before July or August of this year, for the 2013 budget.

CRA member Austen Zuege expressed disappointment that the CRA board didn’t have any input into the new system earlier in the process. “I think of the CRA board as representatives of citizens in Minneapolis. They should have a stake in this process,” he said.

After taking questions from CRA board members, Korbel left the meeting, causing many citizen observers to react strongly that their voices were not being heard. “This is a façade!’ cried one person. “It’s time to listen to the people!” said another. “Let’s have some justice!” a third said.

Michelle Gross, President of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said, “This is outrageous!”

Following Korbel’s departure, a question and answer session continued between CRA board members and Assistant Director Samuel Reid. The meeting then continued until the public comment section of the meeting.

Michelle Gross was the first to speak, saying the meeting was “outrageously disgusting,” especially given that Korbel “goes running out the back door before the community has a chance to say a word.” Gross called the proposal “a complete gutting of civilian oversight. It’s top down with no community involvement.” The “conflation of Internal Affairs and the CRA” disallows the CRA board from any “finding of fact,” she said. “Why was this process developed by the very agency that CRA is supposed to provide oversight to?”

After Gross spoke for three minutes, CRA chair Donald Bellfield told her to stop speaking (three minutes was the designated time), but Gross refused. At this point everyone started shouting again and Bellfield said, “This meeting is adjourned!” and walked out.

Former CRA Dave Bicking then said that there was no motion to adjourn, so the meeting wasn’t actually over. Bellfield then returned, saying that he asked the security to come in to the room.

Two security personnel then entered the room and tried to regain control. “Everyone here needs to act like an adult,” one of them said. “If you can’t act like an adult, I’m going to have to close this meeting.”

“This is a farce!” said Kenneth Brown, another citizen.

The security officer spoke again: “I’ve received numerous calls from people in this facility. It sounds like there is a riot happening in here! Who’s in charge of this meeting?”

Finally, order was restored, and it was decided everyone would speak for three minutes and then after that, if others had more to say they could.

Chuck Turchick then spoke, followed by Michael Friedman, Executive Director of the Legal Rights Center, who previously served on the board. Friedman said the new proposal is just the latest excuse to “bait and switch” because the “Police Chief doesn’t want to discipline.”

Charles Hallman, from the Spokesman Recorder, (who also served on the original committee in 1989) asked: “At what point can citizens have some reassurance, some constitutional protection? What has happened is that the CRA has disintegrated. It’s all a façade!”

Darrell Robinson, from CUAPB spoke and he said CRA combining with Internal affairs will “sweep everything under the rug.” If the process is going to stay in place, “the community is going to take it over,” he said. “Those of you with paid jobs ­ you’d better find a new job.”

Dave Bicking said he was appalled by the turn of events. One of the worst parts of the new proposal, he said, was that people would have to submit their complaints directly to the police. The complaints go immediately to the CRA head and the Internal Affairs head. “That’s not a process,” Bicking said. He also was critical of the notion that Korbel would assume responsibility of breaking a tie, during the determination panel. “That gives me little faith,” he said.


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