The Star Tribune story “New names, old pains on Minneapolis police review panel,” February 20, 2012, reported on what we have reported on for a decade: the slow, continued collapse of the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) and, by extension, the collapse of its parent, the Civil Rights Department (CRD). Thus words in the story were not a surprise to us: “ranks depleted…investigative staff overwhelmed…recommendations routinely ignored,” with the CRA “far weaker” in its investigation “of complaints against the police.”
We know that the quality of professional investigation in the CRA leaves a lot to be desired. We understand why the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Chief Tim Dolan thinks the CRA is incompetent. This is one the dark holes that the Rybak administration needs to be concerned about falling into.
Taxpayers have every right to expect that their hard-earned dollars will provide the best possible service. One of the more revealing features of the Star Tribune’s story was that the CRA has only one investigator, with a second investigator on leave. Now this one working investigator reports to an $80K-per-year director, which raises the question of a lot of pork barreling.
The CRD and, by extension, the CRA, seems to be extremely heavy with the presence of highly paid assistant directors and very few staff to do the work. We see a department that allegedly investigates as many as 300 cases. Yet it has a three-year backlog of cases waiting to be investigated.
Minneapolis taxpayers are not getting a quality return for their dollar. Needless to say, the mayor understands that this kind of fiscal imbalance makes it easier to jettison the CRD and the CRA. Is that the goal here?
The Rybak administration owes the taxpayers an explanation. It is clear that the chief of the MPD, Tim Dolan, has no confidence whatsoever in the administrative and investigative quality of the CRA and, by extension, the CRD. In fact, it is quite clear that the CRA’s board didn’t have much confidence in their responsibilities, because they never spoke up about the number of vacancies that existed on the CRA board. Nine of the 11 positions were unfilled and allowed to let stand unfilled for quite some time, adding to the CRA’s inability to carry out its administrative responsibility, which is to hear the cases.
Last year the city paid out $4.7 million of taxpayer money, the second-highest total for a single year ever. “Police Chief Tim Dolan dismissed all but 17 of 129 complaints filed with the CRA.” 112 cases were dismissed.
Now we read that departing members of “the CRA Board are quoted as saying they have no confidence that Chief Dolan and the MPD command staff will ensure discipline for sustained allegations of misconduct.” But lack of confidence is a two-way street. The chief doesn’t believe in the CRA and the CRA doesn’t believe in the chief. So who are the taxpayers of the City of Minneapolis to believe in, and what needs to be done to keep their hard-earned tax dollars from going to waste?
This is a “luxury” the City of Minneapolis cannot afford. The mayor is trying to get a stadium for those who can afford to be entertained, but this column feels that priorities are in the wrong place. The commitment of the taxpayers to support an effective and competent government should be a priority over all other things.
The taxpayers of Minneapolis cannot afford this impasse: large payouts, non-responsiveness, significant infighting inside City Hall. The Star Tribune piece includes this most compelling statement: that “Kenneth Brown, 2008-2009 Chairman of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, says Dolan does not believe in citizen scrutiny of police. He says Rybak is partially to blame for failing to appoint enough board members.” Said Brown, “The police chief and the mayor don’t believe they have to be accountable to the citizens of this city who are putting them in office.”
Velma Korvelle said there is a plan for corrective action. I assume that that will take place during the confirmation hearings of the eight new board members that, three-to-four months after the fact, hearings finally being moved forward.
My friends, the taxpayers of the City of Minneapolis cannot afford this kind of irresponsible governance and waste of their hard-earned tax dollars. Think of how the city could afford to support a new stadium with the monies that it wastes.
Ron Edwards hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm; hosts “Black Focus” on Blog Talk radio Sundays at 3 pm; and co-hosts Blog Talk Radio’s “ON POINT!” Saturdays at 4 pm, providing coverage about Black Minnesota. Order his books at www.BeaconOnTheHill.com. Hear his readings and read his solution papers for community planning and development and “web log” at www.TheMinneapolisStory.com.