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Independent criticism of MPD kept silent, unless MPD agrees

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An opinion by an Assistant City Attorney two years ago made it illegal to tell the public when an information independent review board found MPD officers had engaged in misconduct, according to a story in the University of Minnesota's student newspaper.

The information can only be released if an officer is disciplined by the department, explained Lee Reid, manager of the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority board. That does not often happen, according to the story. Police have alleged in the past that this is because the independent board's decisions are often not well-founded.

Two years ago, the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority, an independent body charged with investigating citizen complaints of police misconduct, held a meeting. Here's what happened, according to Andrew Mannix of MN Daily:

About halfway through, then-Assistant City Attorney Lisa Needham explained the contents of an inter-office memo she sent out earlier that day: Her office had reinterpreted state data laws. As of that day the Authority could no longer release to the public that they sustained a complaint, meaning they sent it off to the police chief with a recommendation for discipline.

Some Authority members protested the ruling, alleging that it was made under pressure from the Minneapolis Police Federation.

Current and former members say the inability to release this information to the public severely cripples the Authority's ability to perform effective civilian oversight of Minneapolis police.

Twenty-one months after the meeting , a community watchdog group led by a University of Minnesota employee sued the city for violating state data laws . A Hennepin County judge ruled on the case earlier this month, siding mostly with the city, and an appeal is in the works.

Last year, a citizen group filed a lawsuit over the ruling, but the judge agreed with the city attorney. The case has been appealed.