Same old story: MPD ignores civilian review

The removal of Minneapolis Police Department Lt. Medaria Arradondo as the liaison between the MPD and the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) is ostensibly what prompted yesterday's demonstration that filled city council chambers at Minneapolis City Hall. But taking the popular Arradondo off the job is only one of a series of discouraging signs that the department has little respect for any cooperative effort with citizens that would help it rebuild trust and improve performance in the communities it is paid to serve and protect. That was borne out in two pieces that were published in yesterday's edition of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, and by a City Pages interview earlier this morning with civilian review authority board chair Michael Friedman.

One of the Spokesman articles was written by Booker Hodges, who recently resigned as a community member of the PCRC. Hodges states that the council "has been in constant turmoil since the beginning of this year," and argues that the "community side [of the council] should have gone into federal court long ago." Hodges' main complaint is the failure of the MPD to adequately diversify its workforce.

A second Spokesman-Recorder article was authored by Friedman, who was appointed two years ago to chair the CRA board. Under his leadership, the CRA has regained some credibility for taking an active interest in civilian complaints against the MPD. Friedman's article notes that during his tenure, the CRA has sent numerous letters to the MPD brass "detailing training or policy matters that need to be looked into," and summarizes the gist of those concerns in eight bullet points. One deals with "officers not understanding what behavior constitutes Disorderly Conduct against a police officer as determined by Minnesota courts." Another wonders about "Police reports regarding use of force that are inconsistent with documented injury." Still others relate to the use of tasers, domestic abuse complaints, and the racial tension that might arise for arresting someone for spitting on the sidewalk."

"Unfortunately," Friedman writes, "the MPD has chosen not to provide any feedback to CRA on any of the issues raised."

In an interview with City Pages this morning, Friedman says that he had attended yesterday's public safety committee meeting at City Hall, where citizens objected to Arradondo's removal and the general state of police-community relations. "What was most striking to me was that some of the things the community members were saying echoed my own experience with the CRA," he says. "There seems to be an aversion within the police department for accepting anybody's input on anything, at least as far as management is concerned. We aren't claiming to have expertise, but when we see problems leading to citizen dissatisfaction it is our role to bring that to the police and promote a dialogue. But there is such a denial from the police administration that the CRA is legitimate, that it is like a political stone wall.

"Chief McManus designated [deputy chief] Don Harris as being the only one to deal with us, and Harris doesn't respond to us," Friedman continues. "I asked him to appear as a guest speaker at our monthly board meeting--sort of a continuing ed sort of thing, where we wanted police clarification on aspects of their policy manual. Don Harris didn't even give us the courtesy of a reply. Don Harris has made some very inflammatory remarks at PCRC meetings, saying CRA is on a witchhunt over how police are managed. It is a smear campaign designed to remove the legitimacy of anyone having any role in advising the police department. I think it is actually the same arrogance to outside review that gets the department in trouble with regard to the city's losing so much in police laibaility litigation. Because the court sets certain standards and there is a reluctance to listen to people who don't know first-hand what policing is about, whether they are judges or citizens on a CRA panel.

"I imagine the PCRC people who are frustrated with Don Harris feel the same way. Yesterday at City Hall, Reverend Ian Bethel made a comment where he said `I am able to have better communication with [Minneapolis Police Federation] John Delmonico than I am with the police administration.' [For legal reasons] we don't talk to Delmonico at all, but our experience is the same; we can have a communication with the federation that is respectful. So articles that lay blame for police-community relations on the union I think are misspoken. It is management accountability issue."

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