Almost 25 years have passed since the commencement of civilian oversight of the Minneapolis Police Department. Throughout that time, the organization of civilian review has changed dramatically, first under the Civilian Police Review Authority and then under the Office of Police Conduct Review. The information below is an outline of the various iterations of civilian oversight in Minneapolis, with supporting historical documents. For more information about civilian oversight over law enforcement, please see NACOLE.
History of civilian oversight of law enforcement in Minneapolis
1990-1997 Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA)
On January 26, 1990, an ordinance created Minneapolis’ first civilian oversight body, the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA), and the first administrative rules were created (see: Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority Administrative Rules). The CRA was composed of a board of seven Directors, and the office consisted of an Executive Director, Investigators, and Administrative Staff. The purpose of the CRA was to receive, consider, investigate, and make a determination on complaints in an independent, impartial, and prompt manner.
The CRA complaint process is formal with many steps. The complainant first must contact the office and meet with the investigator. Shortly thereafter, the complainant will receive a complaint in the mail requesting his or her signature. Then, the investigator will do any additional investigation. The complaint then is sent to the Executive Director for a finding on the merits called a statement of probable cause. Afterward, the complaint was presented to the CRA panel for hearing if a probable cause determination is sustained. All sustained complaints we referred to the chief for discipline.
1997-2002 City Coordinator took interim control of the CRA
During 1996, the City Council raised the issue of consolidating the CRA with the City Coordinator’s Office to reduce expenses, improve coordination, and provide better access to services. At a meeting in June 1997 (City Council Meeting Minutes, June 27, 1997), the Minneapolis City Council met and discussed a range of proposals, including whether to eliminate the CRA Director position or even abolish the CRA entirely. By meeting’s end, the City Council had transferred the CRA to the City Coordinators Office, and appointed a redesign team to study six areas:
- Appropriate services
- Cost effectiveness
- Oversight by the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission
The redesign team met and concluded that the CRA should remain independent from the Minneapolis Police Department and other Minneapolis city departments. The team also recommended measures to increase CRA visibility in the community and to improve CRA service in the six different study areas. See . The CRA Board of Directors responded to each of the redesign team’s recommendations.
The CRA entered a period of standstill during a twenty-month period in 2002 and 2003. Minneapolis elected officials, “had been hearing from the community that the current review process was perceived to be ineffective,” despite contrary assurances from the CRA’s Executive Director.
Based on these concerns and on budget constraints, the Minneapolis City Council closed the CRA office in early 2002, directed the City Coordinator to convene an action group to redesign a review process in April 2002, and assigned the interim operation of the CRA to the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights in August 2002.
Several months later, the action group approved fifteen recommendations related to civilian review. These recommendations served as the foundation for the Civilian Review Redesign Plan, which was submitted to the Health and Human Services Committee of the Minneapolis City Council in December 2002. The report proposed changes to the CRA’s governing ordinance to allow for more staff, additional Board members, a revamped hearing process, and an increased budget.
2006-2007 CRA adjustments
In 2006, an independent consultant hired by the Director of Civil Rights completed a study of the CRA. The study recommended that the CRA should establish a clear dismissal process, modify the format of the determinations, CRA staff should not rely solely on MPD standards when making a determination, offer only outcome based decisions, adopt changes to the investigative policy, the MPD appoint a CRA liaison, conduct a quality assurance study, establish a work group to address issues outside the scope of the study.
In 2006 and 2007, the CRA worked on the proposals made in the Work Plan and adopted several changes to the CRA ordinances. Some of these changes included: additional accountability on the Chief regarding sustained CRA cases, CRA administrative dismissals, and a directive that MPD must notify CRA within 30 days of officer reinstatement.
The Police Accountability Coordination Committee (PACC) was established in 2006. The PACC was made up of representatives from the CRA, the Mayor’s office, MDCR, the MPD, and the City Council. See . The goal of the PACC was to encourage communication between those in the city responsible for police accountability.
2007-2012 CRA operations under a new City ordinance
In 2007, the CRA began operating under the new changes implemented in 2006. The CRA’s efforts were bolstered by an audit of the IAU by the Police Executive Research Firm in December 2008, which recommended that the MPD work within CRA requirements.
Despite these developments, the relationship between the MPD and the CRA remained strained.
In spring 2012 the Minnesota Peace Officer’s Discipline Procedure Act (Minn. Stat. § 626.89) was amended to prohibit civilian review boards in the State of Minnesota “from making a ‘finding of fact or determination regarding a complaint against an officer.” The amendment, effective August 2012, preempted major changes to the CRA.
2012-Present Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR)
In response to the need to streamline the common work of the MDCR and MPD, the need for transparency, and the need for a more effective oversight of the investigative processes a new oversight process was proposed by the MDCR, MPD and City Attorney Leadership. The MDCR and the IAU would work together under the new umbrella of the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR).
After several public hearings and significant debate, the City Council approved the new structure. In the first year of operation, the OPCR set up its complaint process, the review panel and planned for the Commission.
The OPCR, with the assistance of review panels, assesses and investigates individual complaints in accordance with the process outlined in the ordinance. In addition to the OPCR, the new law provides for a Police Conduct Oversight Commission. The Commission is charged with auditing case summaries, reviewing policies and procedures, facilitating officer training, and performing other duties.