Mpls City Council committee passes Civilian Review Authority overhaul despite public outcry
|City Councilmember Don Samuels says the new proposal will be more effective.|
Despite near-unanimous criticism during a public hearing Wednesday afternoon, a Minneapolis City Council committee voted in favor of a plan to overhaul the city's police civilian oversight board, sending a new proposal to the full council for a final vote.
Of the more than a dozen who participated in the public comment portion of the meeting, only one spoke in favor of the new plan to replace the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority. Four who criticized the proposal are current members of the board, and say they were never consulted about the new design.
If passed, the proposal would create a joint panel of appointed citizens and sworn officers to review cases of police misconduct. After a determination is made, the police chief would decide whether to impose discipline on officers. Currently, the board is made up entirely of city-appointed volunteers, and serves as an independent avenue of investigating complaints against officers from internal affairs.
City Councilman Don Samuels, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Health Committee, says the old model wasn't working, and the new plan would be faster, more efficient, and provide more transparency.
"It has lost its purpose," Samuels said in a City Pages interview after introducing the proposal. "People are no longer feeling any sense of confidence that this alternative is going to yield the results that they want. And so at the end of the day, that's what we have to look at: outcomes."
But the bill's critics worry about the consequences of introducing police into the equation, which was the primary concern expressed at the meeting Wednesday.
"The reason we have a civilian review authority is because people don't feel comfortable reporting misconduct to police," said Mel Reeves, one Minneapolis resident who spoke at the hearing. "In fact, it's just common sense."
Councilmember Cam Gordon, the only one to vote against the bill (City Councilmember Betsy Hodges abstained), expressed a similar skepticism.
"I share the concerns that a lot of people have with merging this with internal affairs," said Gordon, later adding there could be a potential benefit in getting "civilian eyes involved with internal affairs."
The only community member to speak in favor of the proposal was John Hoff, author of the Adventures of Johnny Northside blog. In his testimony, Hoff referenced incidents of violence on the North Side, including the shooting death of five-year-old George Nizzel. "I come as a resident that says, 'Thank God for police.'"
But Hoff was clearly in the minority. By the end of the meeting, many in the audience were vocally upset with the councilmembers. After the vote, one shouted a pointed "Fuck You" at the council on his way out the door.
Check out all of the proposed changes here.