Several community advocates have said they want to see the end of the Minneapolis Office of Police Conduct Review after they say an analysis of data by Communities United Against Police Brutality shows that few officers in the last two years have been disciplined after their cases were reviewed. But an official from the agency said the way the group has framed the statistics is significantly flawed.
"Now more than ever, the people of this country, the people of our community are certain that there is a problem with policing and are certain that we want to hold police accountable" said Michelle Gross, president of CUAPB.
From October 2012 through March 2015, 962 complaints with a total of 919 separate allegations were submitted to the office, the group reported. Out of those cases, 392 were dismissed, 216 were submitted to supervisors for coaching, 33 were submitted for mediation and another 202 were given to investigators for at least a preliminary investigation.
Though 36 allegations were found to have merit, only one officer as a result of community member complaints has yet to be disciplined, CUAPB said. That officer received two weeks of unpaid suspension and a written reprimand. Another officer received three weeks of unpaid suspension after a complaint filed by a Wisconsin police officer.
Gross said the data was "frankly appalling" and called the agency "an epic fail."
Gross said that advocates are calling for the Office of Police Conduct Review to be disbanded and to be replaced by a civilian review body independent of the city's Department of Civil Rights. CUAPB also is pushing for officers to carry personal liability insurance, which the group asserts would help hold individual officers responsible for their conduct.
"We need to make some changes," said activist Al Flowers, who earlier this month filed a lawsuit against Minneapolis police whom he alleged used excessive force during an arrest at his home.
The lawsuit followed a complaint Flowers filed last fall with the city’s Civil Rights Department and an independent investigation called for by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janeé Harteau. No officers were disciplined in the case.
"Let's not wait for Ferguson to happen here," said Steve Belton, interim president of the Minneapolis Urban League.
Michael Browne, director of the Office of Police Conduct Review, said that the conclusions that CUAPB have made are based on misconceptions and are misleading. For one, many open cases that have not gone through the grievance process yet when officers have the chance to appeal before discipline is finalized, Browne said. There were 217 complaints that did not contain allegations against Minneapolis officers but involved officers from other agencies, Browne said.
Another argument that Browne made was that the CUAPB disregarded when more minor cases were forwarded to precinct supervisors for coaching, which could result in the officer going through counseling, training, or possibly result in policy violation findings. The process allows for the most serious cases to be investigated sooner. Browne argued that police critics should be more concerned about improving the culture of the department as opposed to just inflicting punishment.
"How many officers need to be disciplined for them to be happy?" he said.
Browne said the agency has made "significant progress." In 2012, the city dismantled the Police Civilian Review Authority and replaced it with the Office of Police Conduct Review.
On Saturday at 4 p.m., CUAPB is hosting a listening session for community members to discuss police misconduct at 4200 Cedar Avenue in Minneapolis.