This letter comes to us from Michelle Gross, President and Cofounder of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), an advocacy group that has worked for decades on policing issues. This letter is a response to the Council's latest proposed amendment to the city charter, which they hope will go on the ballot in November. You can read the proposed amendment here.
OPEN LETTER TO THE MINNEAPOLIS CITY COUNCIL FROM CUAPB
January 28, 2021
RE: Introduction of Proposed Charter Amendment 7.3
Dear City Council Members:
We see that an item on the agenda for tomorrow’s city council meeting is the introduction of wording for a proposal to amend city charter article 7.3. We are opposed to this proposal. This proposal is similar to the charter amendment proposed last summer and suffers from many of the shortcomings of that proposal. To begin with:
**There would need to be a corresponding change to article 7.2(a)11, which is missing.
**Charter articles typically outline powers and duties.
--The proposed article fails to assign the power to discipline police. This is significant because under the current charter, the mayor has this power (and has historically chosen to delegate it to the police chief). Under this proposal, with whom would this power rest? The phrase “subject to the supervision of the department of public safety” is inadequate in terms of assigning this power.
--The proposed article also fails to assign the power for appointing temporary police officers during crisis situations, a power that currently rests with the mayor.
**The proposed article fails to outline any qualifications for the chief of the division of law enforcement services, including whether there is a requirement to be POST licensed. This is significant because POST Board rules place many requirements on chief law enforcement officers (CLEOs) under the presumption that CLEOs are POST licensed. At best, it is unclear if a law enforcement agency can function without a POST licensed CLEO.
**The proposed article states that the division of law enforcement services will be “composed of licensed peace officers.” More than a quarter of the current police department’s employees are not sworn officers and they provide essential services such as squad dispatch, processing evidence, IT maintenance of the MPD reporting system, etc. It is not clear if those employees would report to the Division of Law Enforcement Services or the Department of Public Safety as a whole. It might make some sense to have people who work on outreach and other non-policing functions report to the department as a whole but those whose work supports actual law enforcement functions should report to the division. Thus, the wording “composed of licensed peace officers” is problematic.
The biggest issue of all—beyond the problems of a poorly-worded proposal—is that this change would bury the police three layers down under an agency that reports to a council committee, then to the city council as a whole, making policing even less accountable to the community than it is now.
There are a number of ways the city council can address the issues the city is experiencing with policing short of burying the department under a council-run agency. We have outlined these changes with you many times. Here is a link. Yet in the 8+ months since George Floyd was killed, the city council has failed to act on them or to make any other meaningful efforts to address the issues with Minneapolis police. In fact, the city has failed to even engage the community in this endeavor.
The reality is there is no magic bullet for solving our city’s policing problem. The issues that led to the killing of George Floyd and many others before him have festered long before Derek Chauvin was in a position to place his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. But we would be much further along if the council would stop bringing forward flawed charter amendments and concentrate on making the changes that actually would make a difference.
/s/ Michelle F Gross
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