SWEET! IMPORTANT VICTORY FOR COMMUNITY ACCESS TO MINNEAPOLIS POLICE COMPLAINTS
Earlier today, the State Court of Appeals released its ruling in our lawsuit Communities United Against Police Brutality vs. City of Minneapolis (available at http://www.mncourts.gov/opinions/coa/current/opa091972-0525.pdf). The ruling essentially upholds the right of public access to information about the status of police complaints. We are absolutely delighted about this victory for the community.
Perhaps even more significant, this ruling also restores the right of complainants to appeal non-sustained complaints. For the past two years, people filing complaints with the CRA have not been able to know the outcome of their cases, effectively denying them the right of appeal as provided for in the ordinance. Under this ruling, the CRA must tell people their cases are not sustained.
In the past, the CRA routinely released information on complaints in response to requests under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA). CUAPB, members of the media and the general public were permitted to know of the existence of a complaint, the status of the complaint anywhere along the process, whether the complaint was sustained or not sustained, whether the complaint was referred to the chief of police for discipline and, once the complaint has reached final disposition, any discipline imposed.
However, on May 2, 2007, the Minneapolis city attorney's office issued a memo directing the CRA staff and board to stop releasing status data on cases. The CRA immediately reclassified all cases, including sustained cases from years ago, as "closed" with no indication as to how they were actually handled. After trying other means to get the city to follow the law, we filed suit in February 2009. The initial ruling from Judge Regina Chu was so bad that both sides wanted to appeal. In early April, the appeal was heard and the ruling was issued today.
CUAPB is delighted that our action has restored transparency to police complaints and helped people regain their rights.