FREE SPEECH ZONE | Civilian oversight of police and attempts at satire

Oh, the perils of attempting to be satirical. Twenty-two months ago I posted a letter I had sent to the Minneapolis City Council, asking them why they kept apppointing incompetent or delusional people to the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) board. I had written that the board members must have been one or the other because 1) they kept sustaining citizen complaints alleging police misconduct, but the Chief of Police regularly disagreed with their findings; and 2) they seemed to think the Chief would discipline officers against whom they sustained complaints. Incompetent or delusional, maybe both. I thought my letter was satire. Apparently, the City Council did not agree. Last September, the CRA was replaced by the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR), which has two separate citizen boards. One is the Police Conduct Review Panel, from which two citizens are selected to make recommendations, along with two police officers, on each complaint. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Minneapolis Police Conduct Review Panel positions to be filled only by opponents of police conduct review?

The first civilian members of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Review Panel, the poorly thought out substitution for the CRA, are about to be appointed. But the requirements for those positions may be as poorly conceived as the proposal was in itself.Consider the following situation. John and Jane Doe observe a police officer pounding the head of a handcuffed individual against the sidewalk. They have seen the officer in the neighborhood before and know who he is.”We should file a complaint against that officer,” says Jane.John replies, “No, let’s leave well enough alone. It’s not our business.”The next day, Jane files a complaint. For the next five years, John is eligible for the Police Conduct Review Panel; Jane is not.This is the panel from which two civilians will sit with two officers on each complaint alleging police officer misconduct. Continue Reading

Thank you, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President:I cannot express how thrilled I was to read that the Department of Justice has finally put an end to the notion that anyone will be prosecuted for torture committed on behalf of the United States.Finally, as you so powerfully stated a few years ago, we can begin to look forward rather than backwards.I personally intend to celebrate this occasion by taking my dog to a public area here in Minneapolis and performing on her the “enhanced interrogation techniques” whose use the ill-informed and so-called “legal scholars” have exploited to attack our nation. Of course, my dog doesn’t talk, so I won’t be able to get any answers out of her, but then that wasn’t really the purpose of using these techniques on humans anyhow.If she survives, her injuries are likely to be so serious that I thought it would add to the celebration to actually sacrifice her in honor of the Department of Justice. As a proud American, it’s the least I can do.Again, thank you so much for your resolute adherence to the rule of law and for having appointed Eric Holder as Attorney General.Sincerely yours,Chuck Turchick                                     P.S. On second thought, I don’t have a dog. Would you mind terribly if I borrowed your dog Bo? Just tell Malia and Sasha that it was for the good of the country. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | How to Dismantle the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority, by Velma Korbel

Act I.Scene: June 2, 2010, City Hall, Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority (CRA) monthly board meeting.Minneapolis Director of Civil Rights attends her first CRA board meeting. She says the Minneapolis CRA is a model of civilian oversight.A portion of the minutes of that meeting:IV. Velma Korbel, Director, Minneapolis Department of Civil RightsBellfield [CRA board chair] introduced Velma Korbel, the newly appointed director of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.Korbel stated that although yesterday was her first official day on the job, she has spent the last month getting to know Reid [CRA Manager] and the CRA staff, as well as the Civil Rights Department staff. She explained that she moved to Minnesota in 1989 and has been doing civil rights work since the 1980s. She understands from talking to people in the city and colleagues around the country that the Minneapolis CRA is a model of what civilian oversight is, so she is looking forward to learning from the board, as well as people from the community. She talks to Reid on a daily basis and plans to have the CRA office location combined with the rest of the Department of Civil Rights, so that communication can improve. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Ellison, Franken support accountability for U.S.-committed torture

Minnesota has long been a center for human rights advocates. From Hubert Humphrey’s 1948 speech on civil rights, to Harold Stassen’s drafting of the U.N. Charter, to Don Fraser’s authoring the legislation creating the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights, to U of M Law Professor David Weissbrodt’s too-numerous to list contributions to human rights advocacy and institutions, to world-renowned entities like the Center for Victims of Torture, Advocates for Human Rights, and the American Refugee Committee, Minnesota is a state the nation looks to for leadership on human rights issues.In that spirit and to commemorate the August 1 10-year anniversary of the John Yoo/Jay Bybee torture memos, which “legalized” torture on behalf of the United States, both Representative Keith Ellison and Senator Al Franken have issued statements and posted them on their websites. In addition, at an Amnesty International/Women Against Military Madness event on August 13, Rep. Ellison spoke out strongly in support of accountability for those responsible for the U.S. torture program.I would be surprised if two of the other 533 members of Congress issued similar statements on this occasion. We are lucky to live in a state with such representation. But because of that, we also have an added responsibility to make sure the words of their statements are not just words, and to ensure that our nation moves toward the path of accountability, whatever form that may take.Senator John McCain was on to something when he said about torture, “It’s not about them; it’s about us.” Accountability too is about us, who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation, more than it is about those who designed, authorized, ordered, “legalized” and committed torture in our names. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority community meeting tonight — without three-day notice

After being directed to do so by the Minneapolis City Council’s Public Safety Committee, the Civil Rights Department has announced two community meetings seeking comments from the public on its CRA restructuring proposal. The first meeting will be held tonight, 7:00 p.m., Room 319 City Hall. The second will be held on August 16 at 7:00 p.m. at Shiloh Temple, 1201 West Broadway, Minneapolis.EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a link to a previous post detailing the proposed changes to Minneapolis CRA, “Bye-bye to Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority.”Here’s a letter sent to the Public Safety Committee regarding the notification about tonight’s meeting:Dear Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Health Committee Members: Yesterday, I received an email from a member of the CRA board informing me of tonight’s “community meeting” on the CRA restructuring proposal that was presented to you at your July 25, 2012, committee meeting. It may be that I’m on a list for official notices of such meetings from the Civil Rights Department, because later on Tuesday, at 4:31 p.m., I received a notice from the Civil Rights Department about the meeting to be held 26 1/2 hours later. That notice did also include the second community meeting scheduled on this topic for August 16 at the Shiloh Temple on West Broadway in North Minneapolis.I have some concerns about the notice for tonight’s meeting.1. I have no idea how the three-day notice requirement is counted. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Bye-bye to the Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority

The Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) is about to be restructured again. Over the years, there have been several CRA restructurings or redesigns. This one is different.This proposal, developed under the euphemistic bureaucratese of “business process improvement (BPI),” has been entirely top down  — no community involvement at all, not even from the current CRA board.Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. The opinions expressed in the Free Speech Zone and Neighborhood Notes, as well as the opinions of bloggers, are their own and not necessarily the opinion of the TC Daily Planet.Last fall, meetings between CRA Manager Lee Reid and Lt. Travis Glampe, head of MPD’s Internal Affairs Unit, were begun under this BPI process. Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | An open letter to Sen. Klobuchar on 10th anniversary of torture memos

Dear Senator Klobuchar:August 1 is the tenth anniversary of the so-called “torture memos” written by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel’s John Yoo and Jay Bybee. As you told a group of us when we met with you in November 2010, after 9/11 our country engaged in an officially-sanctioned program that included torture. You also said that people  — although not line people — should be held accountable, but you would leave those decisions up to the Justice Department.Well, for reasons not made public by the Justice Department, that hasn’t happened. Accountability, in particular for those who designed and authorized the torture program, simply has not occurred.And it’s been ten years.This failure to hold ourselves accountable has taken place while numerous other countries, many with rule of law traditions far less robust than ours, have proceeded to hold their highest-ranking government officials accountable for human rights violations. The title of University of Minnesota Professor Kathryn Sikkink’s recent book, The Justice Cascade, attests to this worldwide trend, a trend we have conspicuously resisted with respect to our own actions. Continue Reading