Review board changes move forward

Police and civilians would investigate police misconduct together.

by Nick Sudheimer


Plans to restructure the civilian board that investigates complaints of Minneapolis police misconduct are moving forward, but some board members and residents remain opposed.

The plan would replace the 11-member Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority, which is independent of the police department, with a 14-member Police Conduct Oversight Commission made of both civilians and police officers.

Department of Civil Rights director Velma Korbel said the new commission will make the complaint process faster and more effective.

“The CRA process that is currently in place is not getting us to the point where we can change the behavior of these misbehaving police officers or get them out of the police force,” Korbel said.

But opponents would rather have the review panel remain independent of the police department. Ward 2 Councilman Cam Gordon previously told the Minnesota Daily that citizens may be more reluctant to report misconduct when police are involved in the review process.

A March 7 CRA meeting to discuss the change ended with Korbel leaving the room to chants and calls for her and CRA Chairman Donald Bellfield’s resignation from disgruntled citizens.

Ken Brown, former chairman of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, gave a short presentation to the commission Monday night explaining his opposition.

“It’s a joke. Do they actually think the police will discipline themselves?” Brown said.

Often criticized as ineffective, the CRA usually disagrees with Minneapolis police Chief Tim Dolan’s disciplinary action toward complaints the CRA finds legitimate.

Between 2007 — the first full year he was chief — and 2010, Dolan acted on only 13 out of 60 recommendations from the CRA.

Dolan previously told the Minnesota Daily that the complaints aren’t processed in a timely manner so he can’t act on many recommendations because they’re too old.

At the March 7 meeting, members of the CRA admitted the process needs improvement, but many of them wondered if the new structure would make any difference.

They voted 4-2 to oppose the restructuring plan at the end of the meeting.

Former Minneapolis police Chief Tony Bouza, who served from 1980-89, said civilian oversight is important, but the CRA is “utterly worthless” and a “total waste of time.”

“I wouldn’t have had it on my watch.” Bouza said.

He added that implementing police reform is ultimately Dolan’s responsibility.

“The success of any internal reform is predicated on the chief’s will, and that is lacking. People think it has to do with structures, but it has to do with people,” Bouza said.

“I think [Dolan] has done a job typical of police chiefs all over America, and that is not very impressive.”

Korbel said she will continue to work with city officials, including Mayor R.T. Rybak’s office and the City Council, to design the most effective system, which she hopes to have approved by late summer.

“Hopefully we can put something in place that can serve the public better,” Korbel said, “but also be efficient and effective for the government stakeholders as well.”