Police reporting undergoes inspection

Benjamin Farniok

A recent report found Minneapolis police officers are rarely recording their reasons for stopping pedestrians or drivers.
 
Thoroughly describing each stop isn’t required by the Minneapolis Police Department. But the report, which the Police Conduct Oversight Commission presented to the City Council last month, aims to strengthen those requirements to better ensure lawfulness when stopping pedestrians and drivers.
 
According to the report, about 32 percent of known stops from 2009-14 had documented reasoning for police action. But because about 6 percent of reported stops were accompanied by citations and arrests, the committee only considered 26 percent of reported stops when giving its 
recommendations.
 
Of the reports with reasoning, officers made stops for a variety of reasons. For example, they made a stop when they saw a man digging through a woman’s purse, which they later discovered belonged to his girlfriend, and when they found a man in a stairwell who appeared to be hiding.
 
Lieutenant Bob Kroll, president-elect for the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said one of the reasons stops remain under-reported is because police are only required to report that a stop occurred and not why.
 
Michael Browne, director of the Office of Police Conduct Review, said the recommendations aim to make reporting more specific by requiring officers to make more detailed documentations.
 
But Kroll said increased stringency could make officers less inclined to stop people in the first place, potentially hindering crime prevention.
 
Browne said it is possible officers had reason to make stops but didn’t include details in their reporting. 
 
David Bicking, a board member of Communities United Against Police Brutality, is pushing for higher reporting standards. He said better reporting could force officers to be more objective in their work and help steer away from biases against civilians.
 
Eric Bauer, the University’s Students United Against Police Brutality president, said stricter requirements increase accountability over police officers.
 
“If the community could comment or meaningfully influence …  the police department policies instead of the police department unilaterally deciding their policies … that would be fantastic.” Bicking said while he agrees with the recommendations, he has doubts regarding the commission’s power to make the changes happen.