Will eliminating police from the board help restore trust?
St. Paul City officials say the recent changes to its police review board will help restore trust and bring transparency to police misconduct complaints.
The changes, including the city council’s appointment of eight members to the St. Paul Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission (PCIARC), will support “balanced, resident-led oversight of the police department by a diverse and representative group of St. Paul residents,” said Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann in a released statement.
The eight appointed members are Daria Caldwell, Kristin Clark, Sasha Cotton, Eric Forstrom, Kaohly Her, Rachel Sullivan-Nightengale, Richard Heydinger and Constance Tuck. All except Heydinger, whose term begins January 1, 2018, joined the board in August. They will serve three-year terms. Bryan Langford, also on the commission, had been previously approved.
Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) Director Jessi Kingston told MSR that the new commission members “are coming in fresh and looking at [police complaints] with a different lens.”
The PCIARC, established in 1993, meets monthly to review police misconduct complaints and make recommendations for disciplinary action to the police chief, if warranted. However, following a 2016 University of Minnesota Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking audit, a review by the city attorney’s office, and several community meetings, many changes were recommended. These included the removal of the police positions on the PCIARC and the creation of an all-civilian police review board.
“People have the right to file a complaint and understand what that process looks like.”
PCIARC’s management, formerly under the St. Paul Police Department, is now under the HREEO office.
HREEO Deputy Director Jeffry Martin said the police review board was a good step in restoring community trust in the way police misconduct issues are handled. Reportedly, the St. Paul police union did not support the elimination of the police positions. Our calls to the union were not returned.
“I felt the commission was well functioning even before the change,” PCIARC Interim Chair Susan Trupiano told the MSR. She has been on the commission since 2011 and will step down when her term expires on December 31. Trupiano said she never felt intimidated with police on the board. “I felt they should be there.”
St. Paul citizens can file a police misconduct complaint either on line or in person at City Hall. There is also assistance available from the PCIARC coordinator at the HREEO offices and at Hallie Q. Brown Community Center during regular business hours.
Kingston said the PCIARC form is also available in multiple languages. “People have the right to file a complaint and understand what that process looks like,” she said.
Trupiano explained that PCIARC routinely receives cases at least two weeks before their scheduled meetings to review, look at video, and read files prepared by the police internal review unit. Then the commission meets for deliberations and votes to sustain if the cop was wrong or not sustain when they can’t find that the complaint was warranted.
“We have a simple majority. We can recommend a discipline — it can be an oral or written reprimand, a suspension up to 30 days, a day without pay, or termination.”
The police chief is not bound by PCIARC decisions, Trupiano said. “The chief will take our recommendations and makes his decisions to go with the commission or not. If he doesn’t, he is supposed to [explain his decision].”
Reflecting on her stint on the PCIARC, Trupiano said, “I represented St. Paul and helped to make things better. I think I made the right decision” to be on the board.
Kingston sees progress: “I think with all of these changes, [St. Paul residents] will have a better say” on how police misconduct cases are handled.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
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