Cops and Council Wards

IT LOOKS LIKE the latest effort to put complaints against police under the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission is dead. A proposed ordinance change has been hanging in political limbo for months, and Kathy Thurber (9th Ward), the swing vote on the issue, is leaning against it. Police strongly oppose the change, and rumor has it that Thurber has been given to understand that police would, well, take it a little easier in her ward if she voted for it. Thurber says she can understand how "someone might extrapolate that, but it's really not my main concern" about the issue.

It's the latest incarnation of a trend that's made itself felt several times recently. Last summer, City Council member Brian Herron (8th Ward) had a public feud with police federation head Al Berryman, and neighborhood residents said the cops were threatening to "punish" Herron's ward. Herron publicly said he was worried about "getting stopped and having to explain a rock of crack in my car that wasn't there before I got stopped." Similar rumors flew after Powderhorn-area residents raised a stink about alleged police misconduct. No one so far has offered any evidence--which admittedly would be hard to come by--to support those rumors.

Whether by veiled threats or just by clearly stating their point, police seem to have gotten their way with most City Council members. Matters "which in [themselves] could give rise to a criminal prosecution" have been exempt from civil rights proceedings in Minneapolis, unlike most other cities, since the reign of cop-turned-mayor Charles Stenvig. The cops argue that changing that would force them before a "kangaroo court" biased in favor of complainants. Community activists, ironically, have levied the opposite charge--that civil rights enforcement in Minneapolis is a paper tiger--and figures produced by the commission seem to bear that out: Over the past five years, it has found against complainants in two-thirds of its cases. And that's not counting the fact that more than half of all complaints are dismissed before they ever get to a hearing. (Monika Bauerlein)

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