VOICES | Civil Rights Commission may not be perfect, but we try

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This is written in response to Ron Edwards’ column “The art of silence, the act of cowardice” [MSR, August 14].

Let me be abundantly clear: The Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission is a group of volunteers who are appointed by the mayor and city council. We are not paid, have no benefits, and most of us desire fairness and equality.

Mr. Edwards, as a former chairperson of this body, should be the last to point fingers at the entire commission. If he has concerns about specific parts of or persons on the commission, I would prefer he be specific in his complaint instead of painting the entire commission with a broad brush.

As a member of our community who is somewhat aware of the PCRC [Police Community Relations Council], I could do as Mr. Edwards and complain that the PCRC has done nothing to protect or to voice their concerns about the mistreatment of the five Black police officers and the one Hispanic police officer that I am aware of who have filed federal lawsuits against the City.

Mr. Edwards was the chair of the PCRC at the time of the filing of the federal lawsuits by the police officers, and I believe he was the spokesman for the Black Police Officers’ Association. I will not point fingers, as I do not sit at the table with either of these groups.

The five Black police officers, as previously reported in this paper, met with Mr. Jordan, the director of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department. Mr. Jordan made a decision that the police officers’ concerns did not rise to the level of a valid complaint.

The police officers could have brought their concerns to the Civil Rights
Commission, but they did not. They chose to file a federal lawsuit, which removed any remedies that could be taken by anyone at any level of responsibility in the City.

I was informed by Mr. Jordan that the police officers were apprised of all of their legal rights and options before filing a federal lawsuit, but that was the route they chose to take. The Civil Rights Commission was not included or notified, of any discussions, evaluations, investigation or determinations made by the Minneapolis Civil Rights Department.

The Civil Rights Commission can be involved if persons come directly to us or we receive cases through the legal process that has been identified in the Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance. The Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission is working on many issues that affect our communities. As a volunteer body that meets once a month, we try to do the best we can in most instances. We are not perfect, but we do try.

If the community wants civil rights to work better, the community has to be involved and engaged. The community is the ultimate body to which the civil rights laws, department and commission are accountable. We as a body are responsible to ourselves to do the work for which we volunteered.

We are accountable to each of us as we are members of the community, but as 21 individuals we cannot do this work alone. We need each and every member of our community to contact the elected officials and City department heads when you have concerns regarding your or anyone else’s civil or human rights that may have been violated within the city of Minneapolis.

Kenneth E. Brown is vice chair of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and chair of the commission’s Public Relations and Education Committee. He welcomes reader responses to ablenotdisabled@aol.com, or call him at 612-729-8463.