Federal Probe of Mpls. Police Propels Talk of Civilian Input
Monday, June 19, 2023
The Minneapolis Police Department is one step closer to a consent decree after a scathing federal report was issued late last week.
Around Minnesota, residents have opportunities to speak up about how their local law-enforcement agencies operate.
The Department of Justice issued its findings about the Minneapolis Department following a lengthy investigation prompted by George Floyd's murder.
The report notes patterns of excessive force and unlawful discrimination against Black and Native American people.
Michelle Witte - executive director of the League of Women Voters of Minnesota - said if people have questions about their own police departments, they should feel they have the right to speak up.
"It's really great to have the community input," said Witte, "not just at the time of tragedy, but also ongoingly, right? To build those relationships, to build that two-way street."
Witte said anyone can check to see if their department has a civilian oversight board, like the one in Minneapolis. She said speaking up at city council or county commission meetings is another option.
Oversight boards are sometimes criticized for not having enough influence or complicating reforms, but supporters contend they can be effective if structured properly.
Witte said speaking up through these platforms allows people to open a line of communication with civic leaders, including law enforcement.
She said just like the importance of voting, being part of community input helps local governments establish accountability.
"Democracy is a team sport," said Witte. "We have our government officials serving us, but we as citizens are there. We elect them. We pay for their salaries, so we need to also be involved."
As for Minneapolis, it's expected to take years for the police department to implement reforms once all parties sign off on the plan being negotiated with the federal government.
A number of other police departments around the country are under consent decrees - legally binding agreements that set the path for specific reforms.
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