Changes proposed in the way St. Paul handles allegations of police misconduct

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Changes are coming to the civilian-police board that oversees complaints made against St. Paul officers, including the way it handles incidents where police allegedly show "excessive force" or "inappropriate use of firearms."

An independent audit of the Saint Paul Police Internal Affairs Review Commission was ordered in January, amid concern that investigations into officer complaints would not be impartial – due to the fact that the commission's board is made up of police and residents who advised the chief, the Star Tribune reports.

The results of this report, conducted by the University of Minnesota, were released Friday and recommend a series of changes to improve the accountability of city police and the independence of the review board.

Among the recommendations are:

  • Every complaint of excessive force and inappropriate use of firearms against a police officer automatically triggers an independent investigation.
  • The Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission moves its office outside police headquarters to the Department of Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity, and have meetings held in different community locations.
  • Increase the number of civilians on the commission, increasing representation from St. Paul's diverse communities, and "prioritizing participation by neighborhoods/populations most affected by police misconduct and interactions."
  • Removing the two members of the St. Paul Police Federation union who are also voting members of the commission.
  • Investigations by the St. Paul PD's internal affairs department should not make recommendations for action to be taken by the commission, only "findings," allowing the commission to reach its own conclusions.

City Mayor Chris Coleman said in a press release that the recommendations won't be implemented immediately. They instead will be evaluated by the City Attorney, Sammy Clark, who will make a final recommendation to the Mayor's Office early next year.

"We are committed to moving forward in the best and most transparent manner," he added, "and how we do so must be informed by both a robust community conversation and by current law."

In coming up with the recommendations, the audit team from the U of M studied 40 commission "deliberation memos" that covered 310 complaints against city police.

The audit was announced just a short while after the fatal, officer-involved shooting of 24-year-old Marcus Golden in the city, a shooting an investigation found to be justified after Golden drove a car at officers – but which was nonetheless decried by local black leaders.

However, Mayor Chris Coleman at the time said that the audit wasn't in response to Golden's death, and had been planned up to a month beforehand following discussions between the Mayor's Office and members of the Black Ministerial Alliance and the African American Leadership Council.

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