Donald Bellfield, CRA chair, ordered to report Dolan to executive committee for ignoring ordinance

Categories: Police

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A judge has ordered Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority Chair Donald Bellfield to inform the Executive Committee of the City Council that police chief Tim Dolan has failed to comply with a city ordinance.

Dolan has repeatedly neglected to follow an ordinance that requires him to discipline officers in cases sustained by the CRA, according to a Writ of Mandamus petition filed by police watchdog group Communities United Against Police Brutality and CRA member Dave Bicking last Friday. Hennepin County Judge Susan N. Burke ruled yesterday that Bellfield must report Dolan to the Executive Committee or give the court an explanation of why he has not done so this morning.

Bellfield didn't immediately respond to a call for comment.

The petition also called for a judge to order Dolan to follow the ordinance, but Burke chose not to address that part of it "at this time."

In his tenure, Dolan has only issued discipline five of 37 cases sustained by the CRA, according to CRA data.

The ruling is a rare victory in what has become a marathon protest of Dolan and the city's relationship with the CRA.

Communities United sued the city of Minneapolis and CRA last year for what they called an illegal reinterpretation of state data laws. Before 2007, some details of a case filed with the CRA became public information if sustained. A reevaluation of the Minnesota Data Practice Act from then-assistant city attorney Lisa Needham has since kept cases private, unless discipline is issued by Dolan.

The judge issued a split decision on the case last fall, siding almost entirely with the city and CRA. Communities United has since appealed the verdict.

In December, the CRA conducted its first-ever performance appraisal of Dolan. The review is highly critical of the Chief, in part for his failure to issue discipline in cases sustained by the board.

The timing of the petition is no coincidence - Dolan's reappointment will be decided in the next month, says John Stiles, spokesman for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak's office.

As for the CRA itself, the board is clearly having some internal problems. CRA Chair Bellfield asked Bicking, one of the petitioners, to resign from the board late last month for co-hosting a forum that criticized Dolan. At this time, Bicking is still on the board.

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