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The Minneapolis City Council has rolled out its latest version of the panel that will oversee the Minneapolis Police Department ("Police oversight panel is approved," April 28). According to the Star Tribune, the Minneapolis civil rights director hails it as "one of the most diverse bodies that we have."

The new panel's alleged diversity looks to me like the only thing it's got to crow about.

Eleven paragraphs into the article, the name of the only person who matters is finally mentioned — Brian O'Hara, the new chief of the Minneapolis Police Department. He's the only one who matters because once a complaint about a bad cop is made, and once the bureaucratic amenities have all been complied with and the recommendations made, he's got the power to do anything he wants with it.

All the new panel's "diversity" will do is give it the patina of respectability that all of its predecessors had — but no real power.

This isn't O'Hara's fault, nor Mayor Jacob Frey's fault, nor the City Council's fault. In 2012, a Republican state Legislature and a Democratic governor signed off on an amendment to something called the Minnesota Peace Officers Discipline Review Act. This amendment vested the sole authority to discipline cops, statewide, in the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction in which a complaint was made. It also explicitly barred any civilian review board from imposing discipline. As a result of this state law, which is still on the books, Minneapolis' new police oversight commission will be as toothless as all its predecessors.

But Chief O'Hara won't be.

Minneapolis' unfortunate history with police-civilian review boards began in 1991, with the Civilian Review Authority. It differed in its makeup from its successor agencies in that it was completely civilian. For the most part, the MPD ignored it and its recommendations. According to the report filed by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights last year about the many faults of the MPD, "... police chiefs often refused to impose any discipline in cases investigated by [this] civilian group." It bumbled along under various guises until 2012, when it was shut down.

Its successor was the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR). The OPCR was a slight improvement over the Civilian Review Authority, in that there was at least some buy-in on the part of the MPD. But as a complaint made its way through the OPCR's complicated review process, serving police officers were involved in assessing it every step of the way, and at the several bureaucratic levels of this process, many more complaints were winnowed out than were kept alive.

As for those few complaints that actually made it to the chief's desk for decision, thanks to the 2012 legislative amendment he was free to ignore all the recommendations and findings of the people who had vetted them. Or, if he wished, he could let them gather dust. The OPCR eventually petered out. Recognizing its ineffectiveness, various board members started resigning and were not replaced, until its ability to muster a quorum faded away.

Now that our new agency exists, please stop trying to make us feel good by telling us how diverse it is. Its diversity isn't worth a plugged nickel if it has no power. Instead, start reporting on O'Hara. He might be a completely decent person. He might take disciplining bad officers seriously. He might be the chief who finally cleans up the Minneapolis Police Department.

Or he might not.

Tell us how many complaints are filed with our new commission. How many make it to O'Hara's desk, and how long it takes them to get there? What are these complaints about? What does he do with them? Report on that. Until we know those things, we'll have no idea if this new agency was worth the money and effort expended to create it, or if it's just another shiny object meant to distract Minneapolis' ever-hopeful liberal citizens.

Richard G. Carlson is a retired assistant Hennepin County public defender.