Police brutality cause for Minneapolis ballot issue

The Committee For Professional Policing is working to pass an amendment to the Minneapolis City Charter, which would be voted on as a ballot issue in the November 2014 election. This amendment would require police officers to carry personal liability insurance, much like the malpractice insurance doctors are required to carry.

CFPP officially formed as a political committee in the spring of 2013. The original idea for the liability insurance model came from Communities United Against Police Brutality, an all-volunteer organization founded in 2000 which focuses on advocacy, education and political activity to end police brutality in Minneapolis and the surrounding metro areas.

According to statistics gathered by CFPP, the City and its taxpayers have spent $20 million on police misconduct payouts since 2006.

“Right now, the city covers pretty much all acts of misconduct by police officers, but it's not actually required to do so,” explained Dave Bicking, the Chair of CFPP.

This means that officers are covered only arbitrarily by the city's current provisions.

“This is not an anti-cop deal by any means,” said Michelle Gross, President of CUAPB. “It is a way to get rid of the bad officers and keep and protect the good ones.”

According to Bicking, the impetus for the charter amendment comes from a long history of issues with holding police officers accountable for misconduct.

“We've been frustrated with the fact that the city politicians, the police chief and the union really have no interest in disciplining officers or holding them to account for their conduct,” Bicking said. “All that's been effective is lawsuits. While those are important to get some kind of compensation to the victims, they do very little to solve the underlying problem of preventing future problems, because the payments are made by the taxpayers.”

Under the charter amendment, the city would pay the base insurance rate covering officers, while any insurance premiums brought on by “risky” conduct would be covered by the officers themselves.

Bicking likened the proposal to car insurance.

“If you're a really, really bad driver, it becomes too expensive to drive or even own a car anymore,” said Bicking. “Similarly, some officers would become uninsurable, and that would finally get those officers off the force.”

Such police misconduct is difficult to track using data, since no centralized agency is responsible for keeping it.

“Statistics about police brutality not collected by the police,” said Gross “No cities keep this data in any real way. The FBI is mandated to keep this data, but no one really does it. So it's this big problem that everyone knows about, but nobody wants to quantify.”

However, CUAPB tracks data that comes through their 24 hour hotline. From 2001-2006, CUAPB recorded 464 cases for analysis. Of these cases, 92 percent cited an infringement of First Amendment rights, 56.6 percent cited justice system misuse, and 56 percent cited unjustified force. Of these hotline callers, 67 percent were African American and 16 percent were other or unspecified.

Given the general dearth of statistics available, it is difficult to pin down exactly how these policies are affecting the Native American community in Minneapolis. However, according to a national study conducted by the United States Commission on Civil Rights, the Native American incarceration rate is 38 percent higher than the national average. The study cited racial profiling, lack of access to legal counsel and disproportionate police contact as the underlying causes of this disparity.

Both CUAPB and CFPP would like to do more to engage volunteers and activists from the Native community. In order to make the charter amendment a ballot issue in the 2014 election, CFPP will need to gather 15,000 petition signatures by May of 2014. To get involved as a volunteer to collect signatures, help with fundraising or do media and publicity work, please contact CFPP organizers at 612-715-8784 or on their Web site at cfppmpls.wordpress.com.

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  • Collecting signatures is fun. It is empowering to not depend on the good will of elected officials. This would be the first of its kind in the nation . It could really help good officers by weeding out the bad ones. Good officers deserve partners who follow the law and go by the written policies of proper conduct. Policing should be a wonderful job, filled with the satisfaction of making life better and safer for everyone. Come join us in bringing accountability to the police department. - by Janet Nye on Sun, 01/12/2014 - 1:28am
  • In response to Ryan - the city is already paying for any legal fees incurred by officer misconduct. The idea is for the city to pay the base insurance rate only - anything above that would be covered by individual officers. I don't think legal fees are really comparable to insurance fees, so I don't know what you're basing your $40 million figure on... - by Jamie Keith on Thu, 01/16/2014 - 4:38pm
  • So a simple question is who is going to pay for this? Do you really think the insurance companies are going to give money away for free? No they will make a profit so you can take the 20 million and turn it into a 40 million dollar expense for the city. Thanks idiots. - by Ryan Ksiazek on Sun, 01/12/2014 - 10:45pm