Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan's reappointment, the CRA, and the out of control MPD
On January 26th, the New Broom Coalition hosted a forum asking the question of if the City of Minneapolis should reappoint the police chief, Tim Dolan. Four panelists, Kenneth Brown, a former chair of the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights; Dave Bicking, a community activist and current member of the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) board; Michelle Gross, the President of Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB); and Darryl Robinson, the Vice President of CUAPB, came together to discuss the issues of police misconduct. The forum focused on the term of Police Chief Tim Dolan, who was first appointed in 2006.
Since this time, numerous instances of police brutality during his time as chief have been well-documented, which has resulted in millions of dollars in settlements paid out by due to settlements from brutality and misconduct lawsuits. As Kenneth Brown summed it up - “We have turned our civil society into a police state. Public safety is first, but at what cost?” The answer is clearly both a monetary cost to the taxpayers as well as a social cost to our communities living under a police department that is out of control.
Additionally, this forum also raised free speech issues. Though the panelist, Dave Bicking made it clear to the audience that he was not speaking on behalf of the CRA, he received a series of e-mails and letters by the CRA board chair, Donald Bellfield, saying that he needed to resign due to his participation in this forum. In one letter, printed on official city letterhead, the Chair Bellfield sent a letter to the other board members, the City Council, and the mayor questioning the neutrality of the CRA due to comments Dave Bicking made in a Star Tribune article about the appointment of Police Chief Tim Dolan.
Not surprisingly, many members in the community were outraged by the threats of censorship of an out-spoken and well-regarded member of the CRA. In a packed and at times very fiery meeting on February 3rd, the CRA board attempted to address the issues of the freedom of speech of its members and Dolan’s lack of follow-up to recommendations for discipline in sustained cases. This meeting included a surprised visit by the police chief himself, Tim Dolan who showed up for his first CRA meeting since being appointed. While Dolan was only there for about 5-10 minutes, he convinced some of the board that he will work with them. Unfortunately, the CRA board then failed to pass a motion that would urge the CRA chair to follow the law to notify the city’s executive committee of this failure to discipline. Another motion attempting to clarify the freedom of speech issue for CRA board members also failed to go forward.
During the public comment time, there were very passionate statements made both in favor of free speech and in favor of pushing the board to be accountable to the community. In general, the comments were supportive of Dave’s free speech rights and his role in pushing the CRA to do its job. Other people were outraged at how the CRA board appeared to bow-down to Dolan who came in for a few minutes and left. Finally, some of the comments also focused on why the board failed to adequately address why the board chair used letterhead to write a letter to the City Council/Mayor about Dave Bicking’s comments without the rest of the board’s approval.
Next Steps ~ Important Public Hearing