Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Struggling for better Police Practices Resolution

Last Wednesday, the Public Safety committee voted unanimously in favor of what I agree is a disappointing compromise on the police policy resolution. I thought it might be helpful for people to understand the context and effort that led me to this compromise. Here is some more detailed history on the issue:

On May 21 at the Public Safety and Regulatory Services (PS&RS) committee meeting I presented a substitute resolution on police practices to larger one proposed by CM Ostrow that also included a section of registering public assemblies. It didn’t pass. The Ostrow resolution passed, without my vote, and went forward to the Council on June 6.

On June 6th, with the help of other like-minded Council members, we successfully divided the police policy section from the public assembly registration section. The registration section was amended and passed (without my support) and the police policy section was referred back to the PS&RS committee after CM Johnson introduced and then withdrew a motion to amend it to supersede a 2000 action dealing with police practices.

Since I supported many of the provisions of the 2000 action, I quickly set the goal of getting as many of the useful items from the 2000 action into the police policy resolution so as to minimize the possible negative effects should the amendment to have it supersede pass.

On June 11, when this came up at the PS & RS Committee I attempted to make several changes, many based on the 2000 action. The following 4 amendments passed.

  1. That MPD officers shall not infiltrate public assemblies or gatherings held to plan such assemblies, except in compliance with constitutional standards.
  2. That MPD officers taking enforcement actions against participants in a public assembly will use the minimum level of force required to effect such enforcement actions.
    That the MPD shall provide written notice identifying information on the Civilian Police Review Authority and Internal Affairs Unit to each person arrested in connection with a public assembly who requests such information. The notice shall also identify all officers involved in effecting the arrest of the arrestee.
  3. That the MPD shall not take enforcement actions against participants in a public assembly, or order participants in a public assembly to disperse, unless the MPD determines that the threat to public safety posed by not taking enforcement action is significantly greater than the risk associated with taking enforcement action, and that before such action is taken, an MPD incident commander shall be designated and the MPD incident commander will document the reasons for this determination.

At the following Council Meeting I was still concerned about what good provisions we were losing, however, and offered a series of additional amendments taken directly from the 2000 action that included the following:

  1. The ban on plastic bullets and the requirement that less-lethal projectiles and pepper spray only be used when use of force is necessary
  2. The requirement that MPD presence at public assemblies be commensurate with the size of the assembly
  3. The prohibition on confiscating, tampering with or destroying cameras.

It was clear from Council Members’ comments that these would not be passed but I was able to get them referred back to the committee. Remembering that some of these items had already been rejected by the committee I determined that my best hope for getting anything additional added at the committee level would require some kind of compromise.

Because I believe these are extremely important protections to put back in place, I worked on an amendment to the resolution, and brought it before last week’s PS&RS. To ensure that some protections would pass, I convened a meeting with members of the MPD leadership and CMs Ostrow and Samuels, whose votes I needed to get the measure passed. We came up with a watered-down compromise resolution that left me disappointed. It does not explicitly ban plastic bullets, though I have been told that the MPD has never used and has no plans to use rubber bullets, and does not plan to use beanbag rounds. I believe that it’s more important to put some protections in place than to dig in my heels and get nothing.

On Wednesday, the PS&RS committee passed this compromise resolution unanimously. Here is the exact text:
1) That MPD presence at public assemblies will be based on legitimate public safety concerns and not be based upon intent to chill First Amendment rights.
2) In concurrence with state law, and city ordinance, MPD officers will not use pepper spray, tear gas, or similar substances, or projectiles except in situations where the use of force is reasonable.
3) That MPD officers shall not confiscate, destroy or tamper with cameras or other recording devices being used to document public assembly activities or MPD enforcement actions. This shall not apply to situations in which a) cameras or recording devices are to be used as evidence, or b) MPD officers arrest an individual in possession of cameras or recording devices.

I am still working to see if further improvement might be possible before the full Council meeting next Friday.


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