Minneapolis looks to give police a role in conduct reviews

  • Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 25, 2012 - 9:25 PM

Plan for joint scrutiny by the department and civilians means an end to independent oversight through Civilian Review Authority.

The city of Minneapolis would abolish its 21-year-old independent civilian oversight of police misconduct and replace it with joint reviews by police and civilians, according to a proposal revealed Wednesday.

The independent panel, the Civilian Review Authority, has become relatively powerless in its role of investigating allegations against police officers. It has struggled with a backlog of complaints, its recommendations are rarely followed by the police chief and recent state law changes stripped its power to make factual findings.

Now, citizens can pursue complaints of police misconduct through the Civilian Review Authority or the department's internal affairs unit. The proposal essentially joins the two together under the Office of Police Conduct Review. The civilian and internal affairs units would jointly process the complaints and decide whether civilian or police investigators should handle them.

Since police investigators far outnumber civilian investigators, it "is going to mean most of the investigations will be done by sworn officers," City Council Member Cam Gordon said when the proposal was presented Wednesday. All allegations of criminal misconduct will be investigated by internal affairs.

A panel of two civilians and two sworn officers will be responsible for reviewing the investigative report and making recommendations to the police chief. Currently, allegations brought to the Civilian Review Authority are investigated and reviewed by civilians.

Council Member Meg Tuthill worried that the new rules may scare off people who are uncomfortable approaching the department about officer misconduct.

"If I have a complaint against you, it's awful hard for me to go to you to have you investigate you," Tuthill said. "That concerns me immensely."

Minneapolis Civil Rights Director Velma Korbel said it's important to have police buy-in.

"You can't change the culture without the people responsible for the culture being involved in the investigative process," Korbel said.

The proposal also creates a Police Conduct Oversight Commission with seven members appointed by the mayor and City Council. The body will be able to compile data on officer misconduct complaints, contribute to the police chief's performance review and recommend changes to the department's policies and procedures.

The proposal is slated to be aired at a series of community meetings before its first public hearing Sept. 12.

Eric Roper • 612-673-1732 Twitter: @StribRoper

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