Public can meet finalists to oversee Minneapolis Police court-ordered reforms next week
The public next week will have the chance to meet the three finalists who could oversee the court-mandated reforms within the Minneapolis Police Department. The state court-enforceable agreement calls for an independent monitor, which will also ultimately oversee the federal consent decree as well.
The finalists are Effective Law Enforcement For All, Jensen Hughes and Relman Colfax, according to the City of Minneapolis.
“It is about accountability but it’s accountability through transparency,” said David Douglass, the president of Effective Law Enforcement For All, about the role of the independent evaluator.
The non-profit he co-founded has offices in Silver Spring, Maryland and New Orleans, Louisiana. His team of 10 to 12 people would bring a unique perspective to overseeing the required reforms within MPD, according to Douglass.
“The experience of having worked with communities to implement consent decrees but we also have a team that knows the challenges of running a department and implementing a consent decree,” he explained.
Douglass is currently the deputy monitor overseeing the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree with the New Orleans Police Department. Retired Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who led both Baltimore and New Orleans through their respective mandated reforms, is also on his team.
“I have the benefit of leading two departments through a consent decree,” he said. “I think the experience I bring is helping the department, helping the chief navigate that and avoiding the pitfalls that I made along the way and that others made along the way so that we can help Minneapolis push forward.”
Harrison explained that includes helping the department navigate the competing and conflicting interests of the multiple stakeholders involved.
“It takes strong leadership, it takes patience, it takes great communication skills, and it just takes perseverance because there are many days it will be tough, officers will feel discouraged,” he said. “Officers will hear, ‘We can’t do our jobs anymore’ and that’s not true. It’s about doing it in a best-practice way.”
He added, “I just want to provide the assistance that I can from the lessons I have learned having sat on the opposite side of monitors.”
Jensen Hughes, which declined to comment, is another finalist. The law enforcement consulting firm has offices around the world, including Minnetonka. In a press release from the City of Minneapolis, it is “committed to improving the performance of policing to ensure the law enforcement agency practices are constitutional, procedurally just and delivered in a manner that builds trust and confidence in the communities they serve.”
The third finalist, Relman Colfax, is a civil rights law firm based in Washington D.C. Its team includes former Minneapolis Police Officer and Former Brooklyn Park Police Chief Mike Davis, who “has more familiarity with the MPD than perhaps any other prospective monitor by virtue of having been in the department for 16 years”, according to a fact sheet provided by the firm. The firm also touts Metro State University Police Practices Professor Dr. Raj Sethuraju and Angie Wolf, who’s overseeing the Department of Justice consent decree in Los Angeles County, as members of the team.
According to the fact sheet, if selected, the firm will establish measurable benchmarks for compliance with an emphasis on assessing outcomes in the community and incorporating residents’ feedback. The team will also assist MPD with technical assistance, as required by the order, and incorporate input from officers at all levels.
Harrison and Douglass shared similar goals.
“We will hold the department accountable by reporting out to the community where they say they are in compliance and then where we think they are in compliance and hopefully those things will align,” said Harrison.
The state court-enforceable order requires the independent evaluation team to support the city and MPD as they make the required changes, track the progress of the implementation and provide regular reports. After four years, the independent evaluator will provide a “comprehensive termination evaluation,” which will determine whether the agreement ends or continues.
Douglass said the timeline “is not undoable but would be quick.”
He added, “It’s also impressive that Minneapolis has laid a lot of groundwork. There’s been community meetings, they’re starting policy review so it will be interesting to see where they are once the process starts but they’ve done a lot of groundwork that should really facilitate implementation of the agreement.”
Both he and Harrison told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS collaboration will be key to the success of reforms.
“Builds relationships that weren’t built, improves on good relationships, and repairs relationships that were broken, if we can do our jobs that accomplish those three things, I think that’s what a consent decree is designed to do,” said Harrison.
Douglass added, “When all parties work together in good faith, it can truly result in a win-win situation, that’s our firm belief.”
The community will be able to meet the three finalists next week at two meetings. The first will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs (Cowles Auditorium). The second meeting will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 10 at Plymouth Congregational Church.
Once the city and state select an evaluator, the city council will vote on the contract, and work is expected to start by March 9.