Minneapolis mayor announces plans to review RNC law enforcement

RT Rybak

Mayor R.T. Rybak announced this afternoon that Minneapolis would conduct a series of reviews into the Minneapolis Police Department’s (MPD) actions in Minneapolis during the Republican National Convention, including a standard “after-action report” that will look into related security measures and the development of new policies for dealing with the media. A City Council member who has urged a blue-ribbon, multijurisdictional review said the mayor’s statement was “good” but appeared to fall short of “a public, independent, transparent process.”

According to a statement from Rybak’s office (see pages 1, 2, 3), the police review — which will focus on the Critical Mass ride, the Media Party, the Liberty Parade and the Rage against the Machine concert — will assess police officers’ training prior to the RNC and identify areas for improvement. It will be completed by the end of October.

Minneapolis officials will also cooperate with St. Paul in its outside review of public safety, which that city’s mayor recently announced would be conducted by attorneys Andy Luger and Tom Heffelfinger.

In addition to the police evaluation, the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office will examine the protocols used for arresting and citing people at the RNC. It will also consult with the Hennepin County courts about the financial burden the RNC’s arrests/citations posed, given that the courts didn’t receive national security dollars to process them.

Civil Rights staff will make sure that processes for accepting complaints from the public are clearly laid out. A summary of complaints from each of these departments (plus the Office of Risk Management) along with recommendations and other analysis will be presented to city officials by February 2009. Rybak adds that “a six-month review will at least give policy makers a sense of the scope of issues to be addressed.”

Furthermore, given the “significant evolution in how the media covers stories and even the basic question of how media is defined … we think it valuable to try to develop a model policy for how to work with the media during large crowd events,” Rybak said.

The Minnesota Independent contacted the two Minneapolis City Council members who issued a call for Minneapolis and St. Paul to jointly form a blue-ribbon panel to investigate police conduct during the RNC.

Council member Cam Gordon had had a quick look at it. “It’s good we have the [mayor's] statement but it doesn’t necessarily meet what I’m hoping to get to … the kind of public, independent, transparent process that I would hope for,” he said.

“We might benefit from more of an opportunity to have a public hearing and take some public testimony,” Gordon added. “It might take Minneapolis and St. Paul working together.” He sees as “positive” St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune’s planned “community conversation” hearing.

“The thing that gets me is this sort of a ‘National Security event,’” Gordon said. “What does that mean?” He said if the Super Bowl and baseball’s All-Star Game now fall in that category, “we need policies … to decide if we even want those kinds of events.”

UPDATE: In an email announcement Friday afternoon, Council Member Gary Schiff wrote that he supports the city’s review but hoped the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would also review federal agents’ actions. Schiff also recalled that he and Gordon had been the council’s lone dissenters last year on the city’s contract for the RNC that put Minneapolis police under the control of the feds, adding at the time that “safety should not be used as an excuse to limit a free press or stifle free speech.”

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