Council moves toward rebuilding Civilian Review Authority

by Shira Kantor

Minneapolis City Council members approved an initiative to advance reconstruction of the ailing Civilian Review Authority on Friday, assigning the plan a two-month timeline.

After city officials trimmed Minneapolis’ budget by $5.2 million in February, the police review board found itself with little more than half its funding and an April 30 end date. Pat Hughes, the board’s director, said the review authority is investigating pre-cut complaints. But because it faces a 56 percent smaller budget, the board hasn’t taken on any new charges.

Under the council’s direction, city coordinator John Moir is charged with organizing a task force of city employees and community members to prescribe rebuilding initiatives for the review board. Since the CRA’s 1990 inception, critics have said it delivers slow and ineffective responses to citizen claims of police abuse.

Ninth Ward council member Gary Schiff said the public has a skewed perception of the funding cut.

“I think the cut was uniformly misunderstood. People thought we were eliminating (the board) rather than trying to figure out how make it stronger,” Schiff said.

And no one argued with the proposed cut, he said.

“We didn’t feel $400,000 was necessary because we had an executive director who spent most of her time traveling around the country, uncommunicative with both staff and the city,” Schiff said.

“Communities of color didn’t lobby us not to vote (to cut the program’s budget), because they didn’t like the Civilian Review Authority; they thought it was ineffective,” he said.

Hughes could not be reached for comment.

Moir’s committee is to present its recommendations quickly enough for the city to act June 7.

“I expect this new entity will be stronger, and we will have subpoena power,” Schiff said.

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