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Tue Sep 11, 2012, 11:55 PM

Mpls City Leaders to make changes to Civilian Police Review Authority (meeting 9/12 1:30pm)

Dear friends,

City leaders persist in trying to ram through a major change to the Mpls
Civilian Police Review Authority, a change so drastic that it essentially
kills any independent civilian review of complaints against the Mpls
police. It comes before the City Council Public Safety Committee for a
public hearing tomorrow. That is the last step before going to the entire
City Council for final passage on Friday, September 21. This is the most
critical time to speak out!

***** TOMORROW, Wednesday, September 12, 1:30pm Public hearing on
ordinance change to kill the Civilian Review Authority, in Council
Chambers, Room 317, Mpls City Hall.

The public may testify for up to 3 minutes each. Then the Committee
debates and votes. This is an important time to show up! Even better,
speak up!

We need to tell the Committee to vote against this proposal, or at least
send it back to staff for revision. Passing it on to the full City
Council is not acceptable, even if it is sent there "without
recommendation".

This proposal came before the same Committee once before. At that time,
due to public outcry, the Committee wisely required the Civil Rights
Department to hold community meetings for input. There were 3 such
community meetings, and at those meetings, every single member of the
public was strongly opposed to the proposal! It would be hypocritical of
the Committee to now pass a proposal that was unanimously opposed at the
very meetings that they required in order to hear from the public. Thanks
to those who came to the community meetings!!

The Civil Rights Director, Velma Korbel, who is responsible for this
terrible proposal, has agreed to a few small changes. Those changes do
not change the fundamental flaws of the proposal. We must insist that the
whole thing be scrapped, and the process start over, correctly this time.
This proposal is the result of a year of secret meetings, excluding even
the members of the existing CRA board. The CRA is there to protect the
community, and to provide the only safe and independent way for the public
to complain about police behavior and hold officers accountable. The
community should be involved in any changes, not shut out and lied to!

Below is an explanation of the problems with the proposal, courtesy of
CUAPB, along with the Star Tribune editorial which opposes this change
also.

Documents can be found as links on the Committee agenda, at:
http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/meetings/psch/WCMS1P-097050

Please come! If you can't please call or send an email to the Committee
members:

Don Samuels, chair, Ward 5 612-673-2205 don.samuels@minneapolismn.gov
Cam Gordon, vice-chair, Ward 2 612-673-2202 cam.gordon@minneapolismn.gov
Diane Hofstede, Ward 3 612-673-2203 diane.hofstede@minneapolismn.gov
Barbara Johnson, Ward 4 612-673-2204 barbara.johnson@minneapolismn.gov
Meg Tuthill, Ward 10 612-673-2210 meg.tuthill@minneapolismn.gov
Betsy Hodges, Ward 13 612-673-2213 betsy.hodges@minneapolismn.gov



From CUAPB:

What´s so bad about their plan? The list is long, but here are the most
serious flaws:

Complaining to the cops about the cops doesn´t work. As the plan states,
the CRA office would exist "on paper only" and all complaints would really
go to the police department. For the most part, the community DOES NOT
trust cops to investigate other cops, which is why the CRA was started in
the first place. The concerns are real-we´ve documented dozens of
incidents of retaliation after people complained to Internal Affairs. If
the current court case is any indication, even cops who investigate other
cops aren´t safe from retaliation. Further, we studied community
complaints to Internal Affairs and in ten years all but two complaints
from community members were thrown out.

This proposal makes it unsafe to complain. Check out p. 18 of the
proposed ordinance. The "firewall" added to the CRA ordinance in 2002,
which prevents the city attorney´s office from mining complaints for
chargeable offenses, is removed. Further, because complaints would be
made to police, complaints that can´t be proven could lead to people being
prosecuted for "false reporting" of police under Minnesota statute
609.505. This charge only applies to people complaining TO police, which
is why a true CIVILIAN review authority is a must. People shouldn´t have
to worry that their complaints will be used to prosecute them.

The chief still wouldn´t discipline. Hearing panels under this proposal
would consist of two "community members" (who would no longer have to be
residents of Minneapolis) and two cops hand-picked by the chief. The
votes of each member would be recorded and sent to the chief. It seems
likely there will be a lot of tie votes (depending, of course, on how
legit the "community members" actually are). It also seems likely that
the chief will give more weight to the votes of the cops than to the
community members. Watch-this will become the new excuse for not
disciplining sustained complaints.

Unrealistic and just plain ridiculous timetables. The proposed ordinance
cuts in half the amount of time people have to complain-from one year down
to 6 months. This ensures that many people will not complain because any
good lawyer will tell you not to talk to the city when you face or could
face charges. Even more ridiculous is a requirement that hearing panels
write up and sign their recommendations within three business days. These
reports have a lot of elements to them and take some time to prepare. Keep
in mind that supposedly two of the panel members will be community
volunteers, who will have to come back downtown to sign the report plus
track down the two cop panel members. What happens to the complaint if it
isn´t written and signed within that three-day window? This will become
another excuse not to discipline. On the other end of the spectrum, the
proposed ordinance eliminates the current 30-day deadline for the chief to
take action on the complaint. In other words, the complainant has to file
right away, the hearing panel has to issue a hasty report but the chief
has all the time in the world.

The real reason for this proposal: During the first so-called community
meeting, the Civil Rights department made it clear that this proposal is
all about making the oversight process "acceptable" to the cops. Every
other word was "buy in" but this is completely wrong-headed. Absolutely
no evidence was produced indicating police officers or community members
thought the process was unfair. The REAL issue is that the Dolan uses
illegal reasons to refuse to discipline sustained complaints. Rather than
changing the law, how about holding the chief to the law we already have?

Editorial: Don't dilute citizen review of police
August 12, 2012 - 5:42 PM
http://www.startribune.com/opinion/editorials/165792186.html

Citizen review panels were developed to improve public confidence in how
allegations of police misconduct were handled. Across the nation,
civilians needed a place to lodge complaints and be treated fairly.

Minneapolis leaders are considering a proposal that would replace the
city's Civilian Review Authority (CRA) with a combined police/citizen
group. As it stands, the plan goes too far in reducing civilian influence
-- defeating one purpose of citizen review.

Though there have been some improvements, Minneapolis has a history of
troubled police- community relations. Over the years, the city has paid
millions of dollars in settlements over complaints about police behavior.
That's among the reasons why City Council members should make sure that
any change maintains adequate civilian influence.

Currently, anyone with a complaint against police can take the concern to
the CRA or to the department's internal-affairs unit. If the CRA decides
to pursue a complaint, it takes testimony and can assign the case to a
civilian investigator. Then the body can make recommendations to the
police chief. Last year, the citizen group received just more than 350
complaints and heard about 20 percent of them.

However, under the new proposal, prepared by civil-rights department
staff, the review panel and internal affairs would essentially merge under
a new Office of Police Conduct. Together, the units would jointly process
complaints and determine whether police or independent investigators
should handle them. Currently there are two civilian and seven police
officer investigators for CRA. currently only civilian investigators. The proposal would add police
investigators.] All allegations of criminal misconduct would be handled
by internal affairs.

A panel of two sworn officers and two citizens would review the
investigative report and make recommendations to the chief for discipline
or other action. The civil-rights director, a city employee, could make
the decision in the event of a tie.

The change was proposed to secure more police buy-in and presumably make
the process more effective. But if the review group is heavily tilted
toward officers, it could lose credibility with the community. In
addition, complainants may be less likely to come forward if they have to
present their concerns to a police officer and have it investigated by
police.

Another part of the staff proposal would eliminate the residency
requirement for review panel members. Currently CRA members must live in
Minneapolis. Changing that would also create a credibility problem with
citizens; they want their fellow residents to hear their complaints.

In response to the staff proposal, the current CRA developed its own
reorganization plan that strikes a better compromise. The review panel
would include three citizens and one nonvoting police officer;
recommendations would go to the chief, but the chief's decision could be
appealed to the mayor. The CRA plan would also retain a residency
requirement.

At least a couple City Council members have expressed concerns about the
recommended changes. "This is a big step backwards. We've made some
progress because of the CRA, and I'm
worried that this would be a setback,'' said Council Member Cam Gordon.

City leaders should support an independent group of citizens to review
allegations of police misconduct, not turn the group into an extension of
police internal affairs.
-----------------------------

Communities United Against Police Brutality
We meet every Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
at 4200 Cedar Ave S, Minneapolis

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