Senate passes bill to limit Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority's power

It's no secret that the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority doesn't have a lot of influence these days.

Since Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan took over, he's rarely disciplined officers based on the CRA's recommendations, causing no small amount of frustration from board members over the years.

But what power the CRA has left could soon become even more limited. On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill that would restrict the civilian board's ability to make a "finding of fact," meaning Dolan could officially take or leave its recommendations for police discipline.

"The recommendation shall be advisory only and shall not be binding on nor limit the authority of the chief law enforcement officer of any unit of government," reads the bill.

At the Capitol Thursday, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said the current city ordinance is unfair to the officers, and raises due process questions.

"The findings of fact that the Civilian Review Authority makes in the city of Minneapolis does in fact have serious consequences for the officer," said Newman, the bill's chief author. "Those findings, that are made without his right to a hearing, follow that officer throughout the course of his career."

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, was one of few on the Senate floor to disagree with Newman.

"Here's the simple truth," said Dibble. "The Civilian Review Authority was established in the city of Minneapolis a number of years ago for a very good reason. It was established because citizens felt like they really...didn't have a forum and a fair place to present issues that would rise up in their interactions with the police."

Dibble helped start the CRA and has been the victim of police abuse, he said.

The bill passed 59-5.

This wouldn't be the first time in recent memory that the CRA's power was restricted. In 2007, then-City Attorney Lisa Needham reinterpreted Minnesota data laws as they pertain to the CRA, and determined the board's rulings could no longer be public information.

Michael Friedman, who served as the CRA chair from 2003 to 2005, says this new bill would be another step toward impeding the function of the board.

"It takes away what little power it theoretically had, which was to make a finding, " he says. "There's definitely some question about the relevancy of the finding if the person who made the complaint cannot see it, but obviously those findings were sometimes showing up in future court cases."

There is also a proposal in Minneapolis right now to replace the CRA with the "Police Conduct Oversight Commission." In this model, a panel comprised by two civilians and two police officers would make determinations on misconduct cases following an investigation.
Previous Coverage:

  • MPD civilian review board gives Chief Dolan a failing grade
  • Civilian Review Authority eyes downtown, northside cops
  • David Bicking asked to resign from Civilian Review Authority

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