Taser policy forum tonight in Minneapolis


A public forum about the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies on Tasers, and how those policies should be formulated and approved will be held Wednesday, July 15 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 319 of City Hall (350 S. 5th St., Mpls). The Minneapolis Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA) is sponsoring the meeting.

For a detailed background of the MPD’s Taser policy, see our Reporter’s Notebook.

CRA member Dave Bicking also writes a good summary on the E-Democracy’s Minneapolis issues forum. According to Bicking:

In 2006 the Mpls City Council passed a new Taser policy. which was adopted by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in return for the authorization of the purchase of 160 new Tasers. It wasn’t perfect, but it incorporated many recommendations suggested by the CRA. In August, 2007, the MPD made a change to that policy, essentially removing nearly all of it from their policy manual. They did this without consulting, or even notifying, the City Council or the CRA. They said that they had just moved the policy to their training manuals. When we finally were able to look at a training manual, it was clear that almost all of the important provisions were gone, and officers were given much greater discretion. For instance, they removed restrictions on more than one officer Tasering a person at a time, or intentionally using the Taser on the head, neck, face, or genitalia.

The CRA has recommended that the previous policy be reinstated. The MPD has recently rejected that recommendation.

CRA manager Lee Reid said that the CRA is “trying to basically find out what the public is thinking about in terms of Tasers, and if there’s other ideas or thoughts about tasers for additional policies or maybe other concerns.” Reid said the CRA’s main role is hearing panels for police misconduct, but that pro-active measures like holding this forum provide a way for the community to affect policy before a crisis occurs. “The CRA is one of those activities that people don’t think about until they have an issue with the MPD,” Reid said.

Council Member Gary Schiff said that it was not so much which Taser policy is better, but rather the way in which MPD policy changed without oversight by City Council that concerned him. “Is this something that the police just get to write by themselves?” Schiff asked. “Or [does the city council] get to set those policies?” Schiff said he hoped a procedure is put in place in which the city, including the council and the community, has input into MPD’s Use of Force policies.

Schiff made a motion for the MPD to provide ideas about how changes to police policy, particularly in regard to the Use of Force policy, could include city entities such as the city attorney, the mayor’s office, city council, and the CRA. The MPD was invited to the July 22 council meeting, but because some of key players were on vacation, the MPD will probably discuss these issues with city council at the August 5 meeting.

Council member Cam Gordon said that he had been disappointed to learn that the Taser policy put in place in 2006 with oversight from the CRA and other city entities had been changed in 2007 by the MPD without any oversight. Gordon said he advocates that MPD policies, particularly Use of Force policies, should be approved beyond the police department. “The best policies would be where everybody would be in agreement,” Gordon said.

Gordon went on to say that he is very happy that the CRA is a fully working board. “One thing that that this has demonstrated to me is the value of having an effective CRA,” Gordon said. “[The changes to the Taser policy] would not have come to the council’s attention if it had not been for them.”

Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis theater artist and freelance writer. Email sheila@tcdailyplanet.net