CRA Quarterly Report – Taser section

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The CRA has a policy function in addition to its primary mission to adjudicate complaints of police misconduct. The CRA ordinance authorizes the CRA to “review Minneapolis Police Department policies and training procedures and make recommendations for change.” Policy review is carried out primarily by the volunteer members of the CRA Board. There is a procedure, put in place by the CRA Working Group in 2006, for the CRA Board to submit policy inquiries and recommendations to the Police Accountability Coordinating Committee (PACC) for further review and action by the City Council and/or MPD.

In the past year, the CRA Policy Committee has reviewed several MPD policies, but has focused most of its efforts on the policies regarding Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs, or Tasers, the brand used by the MPD). The reason for this focus is the CRA’s history of involvement, the changes made to the CED section of the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual, and the continuing controversy over the use of CEDs, both locally and nationally. We agree with the MPD’s statement that, “The key to reducing community fear about the CED abuses is good policy and oversight.”

In January, 2006, the CRA formed a Taser Working Group in response to a City Council directive. The next month, the CRA presented its report, and the MPD and City Council agreed with its recommendations. At the direction of the City Council, most of the CRA recommendations were incorporated into a revised Taser policy in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual on 4/14/06.

On 8/17/07, the Taser policy in the MPD Manual was changed again, dropping any explicit mention of most of the new policies, and substituting the statement, “The use of CED’s shall be consistent with current MPD training.” The CRA was not notified of this change at the time, but concerns were expressed at the November and December 2007 CRA Board meetings. The issue was dropped due to a lack of board members, and not taken up again until the Policy Committee was reconstituted in August 2008 with the newly-appointed board members.

The new Policy Committee took up the issue, discussing in particular the question of whether policy should be explicitly stated in the publicly available Policy and Procedure Manual. In February, 2008, we were able to examine a CED Recertification Training manual, which revealed that the substance of the CED policy had in fact changed, and that many of the earlier policy provisions had been dropped. The Policy Committee drafted a list of inquiries, to be submitted to the PACC, in order to determine the actual current status of CED policy, to determine how and why the changes were made, and to obtain more current CED usage statistics. In April, the CRA Board approved these inquiries, along with a policy recommendation that the previous CED policy be explicitly reinstated in the MPD Policy and Procedure Manual. These inquiries and recommendation were submitted at the April 8 PACC meeting. In June, we received a response to our policy recommendation from the MPD, refusing any change to the CED policy. We are still awaiting any response to our inquiries.

In the future, the Policy Committee hopes to further investigate CED policy, looking at the CRA’s own experience and recommendations from national organizations, in order to recommend improvements as needed. We also hope to review other areas of the Use of Force policy, all of which was rewritten on 8/17/07. We are interested in other policy areas, and we welcome suggestions from the City Council, other city agencies, and the public.

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