Community Relations Council, police seek common ground

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2008 - 9:36 PM

The council and the department are working on a mediation agreement that is set to expire in December.

Members of Minneapolis' Police Community Relations Council passed a resolution Wednesday to meet with city and federal officials to figure out if they can complete a mediation agreement that expires in December.

The action came after the group spent nearly two hours pointing fingers over the lack of significant progress on the five-year agreement and its 120 action items. While a police official said the department would meet with the Relations Council, Mayor R.T. Rybak wasn't willing to commit.

"We've put a lot of personnel and financial resources into the process and have met with the council's co-chairs," he said. "I'm disappointed that the community side decided not to meet with the entire council last month, and now it appears they are divided."

Rybak said the group needs to show up at meetings, do the work and become unified. The police side of the council has lived up to the spirit of the agreement and plans to "get the job done," he said.

The community side, also referred to as the Unity team, has consistently lamented the fact that Rybak hasn't been supportive of the agreement. The group asked for letters supporting the mediation process from Rybak and Police Chief Tim Dolan. Spike Moss said Rybak has resisted having a role in negotiations because he doesn't want to hear the truth about problems in the department.

The Police Community Relations Council was created to improve relations after police killed a Somali man wielding a machete and a police shooting triggered a riot on the city's North Side.

The action items focus on the diversity of the police department and use-of-force issues. Moss, in a "state of the community" address to the group, said he was disappointed with the department's efforts on minority recruitment. Dolan was absent from Wednesday's meeting to attend a workplace diversity workshop in St. Paul.

"Why are you all still at the table?" the Rev. Jerry McAfee of New Salem Baptist Church in north Minneapolis asked the council. "Community members, have you really made a change? I think the mayor just wants you to finish this up so he can look good."

Bill Means, an American Indian activist and council member, agreed with several others who said the group shouldn't be ashamed for what they've accomplished so far. But the council isn't a cure-all, he said.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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