Police Conduct Oversight Commission hears specific suggestions on police reforms during virtual meeting
On the same day the funeral was held for George Floyd in his hometown of Houston, Texas, a special meeting was called by a police watchdog group in Minneapolis where he died while in the custody of four Minneapolis officers.
The gathering was virtual, given the pandemic and social distancing guidelines. Instead of being held at City Hall in downtown Minneapolis, folks interacted with the Police Conduct Oversight Commission by calling-in or going online.
The P.C.O.C. as it's known, has six civilian commissioners who help to shape policy and review misconduct cases.
There was only one thing listed on the agenda: the city's police culture.
According to city documents, complaints of police wrongdoing hit a record high in 2019 with 611 claims. The board listened remotely Tuesday night as citizens, who weren't identified by their names made specific calls to increase police oversight and make emergency responses more equitable.
Among the suggestions, "right now when police pull out a gun and threaten a citizen with it, they're not required to report it, to give an example, look at the George Floyd situation early on when they extracted him from the car and an officer pulled a gun on him, that doesn't have to be reported, that's not a use of force and we need to get a handle on that."
From another citizen, "this isn't just about race that's where I'm being politically incorrect, it's also about power, the tremendous discretionary power we place in our police officers and maybe prosecutors too and how that power has to be controlled or monitored or checked."
The Chairman of the P.C.O.C. Afsheen Foroozan acknowledged, "We share your frustrations with the many barriers that are in place that prevent us from making changes as a community, some of the provisions in state laws that protect police from accountability and transparency, are the laws that prohibit civilian oversight agencies from imposing discipline." Foroozan was referring to Minnesota statute 626.89 subsection 17.
State lawmakers have announced plans to address police reform during the upcoming special session, but haven't outlined them just yet.
The Minneapolis City Charter gives the P.C.O.C the power to audit police cases and make recommendations. Foroozan gave an example of when the department tested a pilot program in downtown Minneapolis. When welfare checks or mental health calls came into 911, a social worker would be sent along with an officer to respond. Foroozan said out of 985 contacts with people, there wasn't a single arrest, given that kind of success, the co-responder program was expanded citywide.
The next P.C.O.C. meeting is scheduled for July.