A small fraction of the alleged police misconduct cases that St. Paul’s civilian review commission handled last year were recommended for sustained discipline, according to a report issued Tuesday.
About 85 percent were found to be “unsustained,” “exonerated” or “unfounded.” The Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission released a summary of its work at a public meeting Tuesday night.
The commission’s annual report comes on the heels of heightened tension between the city’s former human rights director, Jessica Kingston, and the Police Department over the review of alleged police misconduct. Kingston received a $250,000 settlement from the city earlier this year in exchange for leaving her job. In October, she broke her silence and said that police officials engaged in “microaggressions against me in an effort to undermine my ability” to operate the commission while she was department director of the city’s office of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity.
According to the commission’s 2017 annual report: The commission reviewed 29 cases involving 54 officers. Cases can include more than one officer, and an individual officer can face more than one allegation in each case.
A total of 63 allegations were made. Of those, a little more than half involved alleged improper procedure and a quarter involved improper conduct. The rest were split 8 percent for alleged excessive force and 13 percent for “poor public relations.”
The commission did not review any cases of alleged discrimination.
“We’re all here and committed to making St. Paul a better place to live,” commission Chair Constance Tuck told about 36 people gathered at the presentation. “We don’t always agree, and I think that’s a good thing.”
The commission was established in 1993. It is composed of nine civilians from St. Paul who apply and are then appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. In 2016, then-Mayor Chris Coleman and the City Council made several changes to its structure: Two members of the police union were removed from the commission, two additional civilians were added and the commission’s oversight was moved from the Police Department to the Human Rights office, among others.
The commission reviews cases that have been investigated by the police’s internal affairs unit and issues recommended discipline by majority vote to Chief Todd Axtell, who has final authority.
The commission’s report showed that last year it did not recommend firing any officers. It recommended an oral reprimand three times, retraining three times, a written reprimand twice, suspension twice and “supervisory counsel” once.
Axtell “modified” the commission’s recommendations one time last year, the group said.
The commission found that all six uses of firearms it reviewed were justified. Four officers used firearms in one case against a person. Two cases involved using firearms on an animal.
Demographic information for people who filed 39 complaints about police with the Human Rights office was also analyzed. It showed that half of the complaints — 20 — were filed by white people. Asians filed six; blacks, four; Latinos/Hispanics, one; and three complaints were filed by people who are multiracial. The rest were marked other or had no answer.
The complaints filed with the Human Rights office were nearly equally divided between men and women.