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From left, Vernon Wetternach, Austen Zuege, Patrick Kvidera and Mary Pargo discussed the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority’s website during a monthly meeting at City Hall.

Courtney Perry, Star Tribune

Police Chief Tim Dolan, center

David Joles, Star Tribune

Minneapolis police could join watchdog group

  • Article by: RANDY FURST
  • Star Tribune
  • February 29, 2012 - 9:51 PM

Investigations of police misconduct in Minneapolis would be handled by a joint team of police and civilian investigators under a proposal that revamps the city's troubled civilian police oversight board.

Following the investigation, a panel of two police officers and two civilians would determine whether they believe misconduct occurred and would present their determination to the police chief, who would make the final call on discipline.

Since it was created more than 20 years ago, the Minneapolis Police Civilian Review Authority (CRA) investigations have been independent of the police department. But its findings are increasingly ignored, and the CRA board issued a report in December saying it had no confidence inPpolice Chief Tim Dolan because he rarely followed its recommendation to discipline officers.

A copy of a presentation describing the proposed "Police Conduct Oversight Commission" and dated Feb. 9 was obtained on Wednesday by the Star Tribune.

Velma Korbel, director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department, declined to discuss the proposal, saying it was subject to change and she had to talk first with Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council.

The proposal predicts there will be "potential push back," noting that "some community members will believe that the CRA will lose its status as an independent body" and that "some community members may believe that the CRA has been co-opted" and "that it is essentially the [police] internal affairs office."

But the document also notes advantages, including more citizen participation, efficiency and confidence in the review process because of "increased fairness and maintenance of the integrity of investigations " and "consistency in outcomes."

Screening of complaints against the police would be reviewed and assigned by supervisors from the commission and the police internal affairs unit, which could dismiss the case, send it to mediation or authorize an investigation. A team of investigators from the internal affairs unit and two from the commission would investigate the claims, then send them to the four-member panel, whose findings would go to the chief.

John Delmonico, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, expressed dismay on Wednesday that the union had not been consulted before the proposal was developed. He said the union should be able to negotiate over the proposal since it was a condition of employment.

Noting that the police internal affairs unit already has seven investigators and the CRA has two, Delmonico asked, "Are they really changing it or are they repainting the bedroom and calling it a new house?"

Dave Bicking, a former CRA member, told a City Council public safety committee meeting on Wednesday that the proposal "gutted" the civilian oversight panel.

Legislators at the Capitol are also considering changes to the authority that would limit its ability to issue findings of fact. Korbel testified against the bill this week.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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