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Minneapolis’s new Community Commission on Police Oversight prompts questions, criticism

Minneapolis’s new Community Commission on Police Oversight will appoint civilians to review investigations of alleged police misconduct and make recommendations on disciplinary action.

Michelle Gross, Founder of Communities United Against Police Brutality, says the new Commission will change the way misconduct complaints are handled but that won't necessarily lead to progress.

“The city has been trying to dismantle any kind of civilian oversight for decades,” said Gross. “A civilian review authority was put together [in the 90s], and it was overseen completely by civilians. The city kept doing all it can to disempower them, including taking their funding away.”

Members of the new commission will serve on review panels alongside members of the Minneapolis Police Department. City officials say the new commission will enhance civilian oversight and improve transparency, but Gross says she has her doubts.

“I was part of a redesign workgroup, and the city just resisted it in every way it could. They fought the community tooth and nail to make sure that the body had no power. Then they said, oh, it's not effective and we have to change things. And they came up with this thing called the Office of Police Conduct Review, back in 2012. It's not a civilian review. And that's what people need to know. It's not civilian. Every layer of the Office of Police Conduct Review is controlled by city staff and the police. Every single layer.”

Gross wants to see police officers held accountable for their actions. She says the Minneapolis police department’s discipline rate is far below the national average of 8%.

“The culture of the police is that we've told them that they get to have rules that are different from every other employee on the planet,” said Gross. “That you get to decide if you want to be disciplined or not. They gutted civilian oversight. Real civilian oversight. And replaced it with an agency that's controlled at every level. At this particular time, they have a 0.7% discipline rate.”

While the new commission can make recommendations on whether or not to discipline a police officer, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara will have the final say.

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