By Hilary Minor, 2L - Hamline University School of Law
Law Clerk through the MDCR Internship Program under the leadership of Michael K. Browne – Director, Office of Police Conduct Review
I am a second year law student clerking with the Office of Police Conduct Review. I attended this meeting to learn more about how the Police Conduct Oversight Commission operates as a group and to see more of the whole police conduct review process. Here are some of my observations and highlights that I picked up from the meeting.
The Police Conduct Oversight Commission met on February 11, 2014. Commissioners met and discussed the future of the group’s committees, three cases, and future points for research. They also had the opportunity to speak with Chief Harteau regarding upcoming police trainings. As of now, the Commission has appointed commissioners to the Outreach, Policy, and Rules committees. You can find committee appointments on the commission webpage. There will also be an Advisory Committee which will be called upon by Commission Chair Brown as needed. The Outreach, Policy, and Rules committees will soon be establishing monthly meeting times and those times will be noticed to the public on the Office of Police Conduct Review website.
During the discussion of case summary data selected at the January 2014 meeting, Commissioner Singleton moved to conduct a comprehensive program of research and study of the OPCR and MPD coaching process, including a performance audit, with the goal of achieving racial and other equity outcomes, and of building and supporting an accountability culture within MPD. Commissioner Singleton is looking for quantitative evidence of what is happening when a case goes to coaching. Potential data points to be explored included whether the supervisor contacts the complainant, whether the supervisor interviews other witnesses, and whether coaching of some sort still occurs when no policy violation is found. The Commission passed Commissioner Singleton’s motion for this comprehensive study of the coaching process.
Chief Harteau spoke at the Commission meeting, providing a training and policy update to the commissioners. She specifically discussed improvements in the coaching process and cultural awareness training. Chief Harteau explained that when she became Chief she made sweeping leadership changes and all of the inspectors are new. She acknowledged that some coaching documents have been deficient. Coaching documents will each be reviewed and be returned to the appropriate supervisors for correction if necessary. She told the Commission that training on coaching is occurring, and stressed small group training for all levels of supervision, where they are teaching people to have a meaningful conversation during coaching.
Chief Harteau also described two initiatives of 2014. The first is the Fair and Impartial Policing initiative which focuses on cultural awareness. This is a scientific based approach to exploring implicit bias within the police. The first training will be on March 19 and 20th for thirty-five individuals. Commissioner Rude will be attending this training. Chief Harteau hopes to expand the training to all officers eventually and will work with the Milwaukee Police Department regarding this initiative, as all officers of the Milwaukee Police Department have experienced this training.
Finally, Chief Harteau described her second initiative which centers on perception issues with police conduct and community concerns. She has reached out to the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), a diagnostic center through the Department of Justice, to get an outside perspective on the conduct of the Minneapolis police. She hopes to validate what the department is doing well, get analysis on what could be improved, and improve dialogue with the public. This process began with a series of interviews on February 12-14, with a variety of people from the police department, the Department of Civil Rights, the public, and a representative from the Police Officers Federation. Chief Harteau anticipates this process taking about eighteen months. Chief Harteau stated, “It starts with a process and I was happy to ask for help.”
In conclusion, as a law student I think it was helpful to see an oversight commission in operation. In particular, hearing discussion of some of the concerns with coaching and the necessary study that needs to be done demonstrates the thought process of the commission and areas for improvement in the disciplinary process. I look forward to learning more from the coaching study as well as following the Chief’s initiatives.