Rachel Moran, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas, spoke with MPR’s Cathy Wurzer about the community commission on police oversight that recently formed in Minneapolis. Fifteen people — one from each ward and two selected by Mayor Jacob Frey — will serve on a rotating basis to review allegations of police misconduct.
“A lot of former law enforcement applied for positions and I generally agreed with the people who found that to be troubling,” Moran said. “I wouldn’t want many on the board because this commission already has to work with the Police Department; they’re not reviewing investigations of misconduct alone, they’re actually reviewing them in partnership with Minneapolis police officers. Every five member panel will have two high-ranking Minneapolis police officers on it already.”
Moran said that the authority of the new commission is limited by law. It doesn’t have authority to discipline officers or make findings about misconduct.
“There’s a Minnesota law that applies across that state that says a civilian oversight body shall not have the authority to make findings of fact about complaints or to impose discipline on officers,” she said, adding that “an effective agency also would potentially have the power to actually impose discipline rather than simply making recommendations so it could be useful. I’m hopeful (about the new commission) but for the people who are more skeptical they have some reasons to be.”
However, Moran added, people should look to see what kind of discipline is happening in the Minneapolis Police Department going forward. “One thing that’s interesting coming out of the court enforceable settlement agreement with the Department of Human Rights (as a result of George Floyd’s murder) is the city is supposed to be making its discipline more publicly accessible and easier to find, and so I’ll be looking for are there changes to weigh the ways they’re disciplining officers and if so is this commission having an impact in that discipline.”
The new commission, composed of seven white members and seven people of color, five of whom are Black, are Josh Loar, Ward 1; Mara Schanfield, Ward 2; Paul Olsen, Ward 3; Melissa Newman, Ward 4; Jennifer Clement, Ward 5; AJ Awed, Ward 6; Mary Dedeaux-Swinton, Ward 7; Fartun Weli, Ward 8; Stacey Gurian-Sherman, Ward 9; Alexis Pederson, Ward 10; Philip Sturm, Ward 11; Nichelle Williams-Johnson, Ward 13; and Louis Smith and Latonya Reeves, both nominated by Mayor Jacob Frey.