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 Rights

Bellfield [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. She is aware of the issues that the board is working on now and hopes to attend meetings periodically to see what the board is thinking. She looks forward to getting to know board members and urged them to feel free to contact her.


Act II.

Scene: August, 2011. Dark cavern located in the basement of Minneapolis City Hall.

Without CRA board knowledge, let alone seeing what board members are thinking, Ms. Korbel initiates a secret process to overhaul — in effect, dismantle — what “people in the city and colleagues around the country” have told her “is a model of what civilian oversight is.”

Word of these secret meetings leaks out in November 2011, and a private citizen informs the CRA board. The proposal is accidentally leaked in January 2012, forcing Ms. Korbel “to see what the board is thinking.”


Act III.

Scene: March 7, 2012, City Hall, Minneapolis CRA monthly board meeting.

Twenty one months after her first appearance, Minneapolis Director of Civil Rights makes her second “periodic” appearance at CRA board meeting. She presents to the board for the first time a proposal that will dismantle the Minneapolis CRA, seeking input, to see what the board is thinking, and to learn from the board.

A portion of the minutes of that meeting:

She [Korbel] wants to be as clear as she can be about the process she has just presented. There will not be a wholesale change to a process that the policymakers have already indicated they support.


I’m not sure if this is a tragedy or a comedy.

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