For about a year now, my office has been working on issues relating to the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) policy manual. It came to my attention last year that the MPD had made at least two changes to the manual that, in my opinion, reduce the safety of Mpls residents and make it harder for us to hold officers accountable.
The taser policy that the Council, MPD and Civilian Review Authority (CRA) crafted together in 2006 was basically unilaterally scrapped by the MPD in 2007, and replaced by a reference to the training manual (which does not seem to include the language that was deleted from the policy manual). Later, in September of 2008, a new policy was added that essentially prohibits MPD supervisors from using evidence on squad car videos (like the beating of Derryl Jenkins in February of 2009) to proactively start disciplinary investigations. It is unclear to what extent the City Attorney's office had a role in assessing either of these changes before they were made, and the Council and CRA were not even notified that either of these changes had taken place.
Working with Council Member Schiff, in April I got the Public Safety and Regulatory Services (PS&RS) committee to pass a staff direction to MPD, requiring them to come back to committee by July 22nd and "propose a process for seeking input" from the Council, Mayor and CRA. This report back was delayed until yesterday, and even then the MPD had not prepared any sort of printed report until the day before the meeting.
I favored, and nearly had the support of the Police Cheif and Mayor's office, a process that would have the MPD send drafts of proposed policies (at lead those dealing with sensitive topics like use of force and use of video cameras) to the Council, Mayor and CRA at the same time that they distribute them to the Attorney's Office and Police Federation. I was also very interested in ensuring that the Attorney's Office must sign off on a policy before it is adopted.
Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful. Instead, the committee chair moved a more cautious direction, which requests
that the MPD inform the members of PS&RS and the CRA Manager when a given policy has been adopted
. It also does not require that the Attorney's Office sign off on any proposed change.
Council Member Schiff attempted a substitute motion that would have required the Mayor to make an affirmative decision in support of a given policy change before it could go into effect. I supported this motion, but it failed (rather unsurprisingly) on a 3-2 vote. Don's motion then passed unanimously.
I'm disappointed that we couldn't get more opportunities for input and feedback inserted into the process for changing the policy manual. On the other hand, I'm hopeful that this is not the end of this discussion, but the beginning. It seemed that Chief Dolan left the door open to future conversations about how to get more buy-in from the Council and CRA, especially on the most controversial policies that the MPD adopts (such as use-of-force, vehicular chases, and squad car video). I look forward to continuing to work on this.