St. Paul’s Human Rights Department is working to fill three vacant spots on the city’s police oversight commission after the chair, vice chair and another commissioner abruptly resigned.
Five people remain on the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission (PCIARC), which has up to nine commissioners. Filling the open seats is “the highest priority,” said Deputy Human Rights Director Jeff Martin.
Commission Chairwoman Constance Tuck and Vice Chairwoman Rachel Sullivan-Nightengale resigned Tuesday, saying city leaders including Mayor Melvin Carter, City Attorney Lyndsey Olson, interim Human Rights Director Toni Newborn and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Relations and Community Engagement Noel Nix didn’t support the commission’s work reviewing police misconduct cases.
Commissioner Anika Bowie, a City Council candidate in the First Ward, also resigned.
Those who resigned didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The review commission’s role has come under scrutiny in recent years. The City Council voted to remove police from the body in 2016, though the Police Department’s internal affairs unit still investigates officer misconduct cases, and Chief Todd Axtell decides whether to impose discipline, including terminations.
Last year, Human Rights Director Jessica Kingston left her job and received a $250,000 settlement from the city after complaining that police leadership was blocking investigations of officer misconduct.
The search for Kingston’s replacement is ongoing, said Liz Xiong, the mayor’s spokeswoman.
In his previous role as president of the St. Paul NAACP, Martin and others requested an audit of the review commission after a 2014 use of force case in which police used a stun gun on a man. The man reached a settlement with the city in 2016.
Martin said commissioners review and make recommendations after internal affairs investigates cases.
“I think the voices are louder now because the police have been removed off of [the commission] and maybe expectations were a little bit higher on what would happen with the commission,” Martin said. “However, the role has remained the same historically. And I think they do an excellent job with what they have in front of them.”