Police oversight group ineffective

The Minneapolis Police Department announced last week the leadership for its new oversight committees, which aim to give MPD more accountability while gaining back waning public trust.

Five subcommittees and a steering committee, which will include police and local residents, will comprehensively monitor the department’s practices. This announcement came about two weeks after the federal Department of Justice reported that MPD has lacked public trust and transparency, which suggests that the announcement’s timing may be more than just coincidence.

While these oversight bodies may seem like a good step toward a more equitable police force, they will likely do little to repair severed relationships with Minneapolis residents.

 First, most of the oversight committees will dissolve after six months. This seems like an extremely inadequate amount of time for the committees — whose members are likely working less than part time — to gauge how the police department is operating. And, given the unpredictable frequency of the most problematic events involving police, the review period seems especially short.

Additionally, the committee meetings won’t be open to the public. These meetings are intended partly to boost MPD’s transparency and public accountability — closing people off from them is counterintuitive. While involving more people in the discussions might slow progress, an area as sensitive as police misconduct needs to be open to a variety of viewpoints.

If the department truly wants to make positive changes, it must invest more resources to make these committees last longer and be more open to the public.