Report shows transparency, trust lacking

Local and federal officials gave a presentation on Minneapolis police performance Wednesday.

by Nick Wicker

The Minneapolis Police Department has lacked public trust and transparency of its activities, a report released Wednesday found.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau and U.S. Department of Justice officials presented the results of an investigation into police procedures to a tense crowd Wednesday afternoon, and some people in attendance said the report was misleading and lacking sufficient community input.

The report, compiled by the Office for Justice Program’s Diagnostic Center, analyzed complaints made to the Minneapolis Police Department  from 2008-13. In addition to criticisms, it also offered potential solutions.

At the report’s unveiling, some Minneapolis residents objected to the police and government officials who spoke, oftentimes speaking out loud, criticizing the findings of the report.

Among those skeptical of Minneapolis police procedures was Dave Bicking, a board member of the city’s branch of Communities United Against Police Brutality.

He said issues with Minneapolis police became more pronounced in 2012 after the city abandoned the Civilian Review Authority, a group of community members who arbitrated complaints against police officers.

The CRA was replaced with the Office for Police Conduct Review, a board of seven members appointed by city officials, and seven sworn members of the MPD.

The Diagnostic Center conducted the independent investigation in 2013 at the request of Harteau to identify ways to minimize police misconduct and raise accountability for Minneapolis law enforcement officers.

Compared to other police departments in the country, the report found that MPD more often used “coaching” — or using other corrective measures in place of harsher steps, like suspension or termination — to discipline its officers.

The report’s findings highlighted the need for more measures to increase police transparency, as well as early intervention systems to keep officers from overstepping their bounds.

According to the report, in the six-year period studied,  officer “coaching” decreased nearly 50 percent.

This claim wasn’t enough for some people who attended the event. Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality, said MPD’s use of “coaching” is a purposeful technique to keep from disciplining officers who overstep their bounds and to make sure instances of misconduct aren’t reported and don’t become public information.

Hildy Saizow, a senior diagnostic specialist at the Diagnostic Center, presented the results of the report and said it wasn’t the end of the DOJ’s involvement. Officials plan to test the police department’s progress.

Saizow said the report showed “infrequent” cases of severe discipline of officers.

At the event, some community members voiced their concerns about these statistics and said more should be done to include community members in the discussion of police conduct.

Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon said the MPD should include feedback from more citizens in the disciplinary process.

“I think it was important that the national representatives from the Department of Justice and from the Diagnostic Center heard some of that feedback,” he said.