After much discussion, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and community leaders have agreed to ask outside auditors to review the police-civilian board that looks at citizen complaints against officers.
Coleman and Police Chief Tom Smith met Thursday with Jeff Martin, St. Paul NAACP president; the Rev. Charles Gill, St. Paul Black Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance president, and Tyrone Terrill, African American Leadership Council president, to discuss the performance of the city’s Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission, according to a news release.
City officials said the meeting, which had been planned for more than a month, was not related to the fatal shooting early Wednesday of Marcus Golden, a 24-year-old black man, by two police officers.
But Martin had said in the hours after the shooting that an internal review of the incident by the police-civilian commission would not be truly independent because the board is made up of police officers and residents who advise the chief.
The group held its first meeting in November, after the commission exonerated three officers who had been involved in the arrest and use of a stun gun on Chris Lollie, who is black. Video of Lollie’s encounter with the officers in a downtown skyway last year drew wide attention, and Martin said after the commission’s ruling that he thought the system was flawed.
“We agreed today that we need to begin with an audit … including conversations with all of the founding members,” Coleman said in a statement. “We need to know what, if anything, is broken before we can identify what needs to be fixed and how we might proceed.”
A grand jury will first review fatal officer-involved shootings to decide whether criminal charges should be filed. An internal review comes next.
The civilian review commission, founded in 1993, is made up of five citizens and two members of the St. Paul Police Federation. It reviews all citizen complaints alleging excessive force, discrimination, poor public relations and improper procedures or conduct by police. It also reviews complaints referred by the mayor or police chief, and all instances when an officer fires a gun for a reason other than training.
The commission recommends a disposition on investigations it reviews and also disciplinary action, when warranted, to the police chief, who has final authority.
Details such as when the audit will be conducted, who will conduct it and how much it will cost have not been determined yet, said Tonya Tennessen, spokeswoman for the mayor.
The audit is likely to include an evaluation of the number of cases reviewed, how many cases are sustained and how those numbers compare with other cities, she said.
Auditors may also look at police review structures used elsewhere. Tennessen said the audit should include talks with the founding members of the commission, including black leaders, police and city administrators at the time.