The potential impact of a new civilian group formed to monitor police conduct was called into question after its first meeting because its members won’t have the full details — only summaries — of the cases of alleged police misconduct it is tasked with overseeing.
The seven-member Police Conduct Oversight Commission is the latest piece of Minneapolis’ new system for civilian oversight of the police department. It was formed after last year’s collapse of the city’s Civilian Police Review Authority, which fell apart amid complaints from its members that their rulings on police misconduct cases were routinely ignored by the police chief.
At their first meeting Tuesday night at City Hall, the commission members chose three cases from a list of 10 randomly chosen cases of alleged police misconduct. Michael Browne, director of the city’s Office of Police Conduct Review, said the commission will not “pick apart” the cases of alleged misconduct or “second-guess” whether discipline is warranted in each case. That heavy lifting will be done by the existing Police Conduct Review Panel, which is made up of two civilians and two police officers.
The commission will instead review summaries of each case and look for “broad-stroke” policy issues to address in the civilian oversight process, Browne said.
City resident Dave Bicking, one of a handful of people who attended the meeting, said afterward that he’s concerned the group won’t have the information it needs to properly audit the civilian review process.
“The structure is the problem,” he said. “I think there’s some good people on it with some good intentions, but they’re going to have very limited information to do their oversight.”
Browne defended the process, saying the commission members will have all the information they need.
Chuck Turchick, a frequent presence at meetings of the Civilian Police Review Authority, tried to ask the commission how it will do its work if it sees only summaries of each case and not the full details. Turchick was cut off before he finished that sentence by commission chair Andrea Brown, who said he had used up his two minutes. Brown had originally suggested that the commission not hear from the public at all, but she relented after her fellow commission members urged that the public be allowed to address the commission.
“This is very symbolic,” Turchick said as he walked back to his seat. “You have about two or three people appear at the meeting to make comments and you limit it to two minutes.”
The question of how Minneapolis disciplines police has been under renewed scrutiny after several incidents involving Minneapolis police officers. Two of the incidents involved off-duty officers accused of fighting with black men and using racial slurs in Green Bay, Wis., and Apple Valley. In addition, the city of Minneapolis made $14 million in payouts for alleged police misconduct between 2006 and 2012, but the Police Department rarely concluded that the officers involved in those cases did anything wrong, according to a Star Tribune analysis.