The Truth About Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement in Minneapolis

Civilian oversight of law enforcement has existed in Minneapolis since 1990.  The most recent civilian oversight model, the Office of Police Conduct Review, was adopted by the Minneapolis City Council in 2012.  I have lead the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, which includes the Office of Police Conduct Review, since 2010.

Over the past several days I have seen a significant amount of misinformation about the Office of Police Conduct Review – some new, some repeating the same narrative that has been there.  There seems to be quite a bit of discussion about what a great model of civilian oversight the former Civilian Review Authority (CRA) was and how the current model is patently ineffective.  On paper, the CRA may have been a good model.  In practice it was not.  I want to use this communication to thank all of the people who volunteered or worked in the previous CRA.  But I want to correct the misconceptions and share the work that is actually happening in the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR) today.

In the past 2 years of the OPCR’s existence, there has been more corrective action taken on Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) police officer misconduct than in the final 10 years of the CRA. You can see OPCR’s results here:

During the CRA’s time, a complete lack of communication between it and the MPD provided MPD the mechanism to ignore any and all recommendations from the CRA.  During this time, MPD was also able to divert complaints from the CRA by referring them to Internal Affairs (IA) without the CRA’s knowledge.  Thus serious cases were never seen by the CRA. In the final 3 years of the CRA, not a single case received discipline despite efforts from the community board and civilian investigators.  In contrast, 4 terminations have resulted out of OPCR – entirely due to good leadership, effective relationships, skilled staff, good policy and an efficient process – in less than 2 years.

OPCR handles all complaints filed against MPD except for Human Resources respect-in-the-workplace claims.  Because MPD is compelled to work with OPCR, MPD cannot divert complaints or ignore the input of civilians.  Other ways civilians are involved in the case handling process: (1) all cases are screened by a civilian investigator and complainants may request to have a civilian investigate their cases.  (2) a civilian director makes decisions on the case route jointly with the commander of IA;  and, (3) a review panel made of council/mayor appointed civilians and police lieutenants recommend merit-no merit at the conclusion of each investigation.  Additionally, OPCR has the ability to compel testimony from officers during case investigations.  The outcome of compelled testimony in an investigation can lead to an officer’s discipline, up to and including discharge.  The ability to compel testimony is very similar to subpoena power.  Thusly, OPCR does not rely on subpoena power because the office has direct data access to evidence such as police reports and body camera footage.

Because of the hybrid nature of OPCR, civilian legal analysts have full data access to MPD data bases and are able to complete comprehensive research and study projects for the Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC) that contain impactful conclusions and recommendations.  On the other hand, the CRA had no direct data access to data and often struggled to even get basic information for investigations for several months after receiving a complaint.  OPCR’s full data access allows investigations to be completed in a timely manner and allows the PCOC to create publicly available reports that address pressing concerns from the community, such as mental health, suspicious stops, and domestic abuse.  The PCOC relies on public input and also reviews completed discipline cases.  You can find their work here:

OPCR and PCOC have access to date to do their work and a significant amount of their work products are available to the public.  Both the OPCR and the PCOC have unprecedented information available to the public on each of their websites.  Most cities across the nation do not have this level of public access to officer discipline records.  OPCR is giving civilians meaningful control over MPD disciplinary procedures.  Minnesota state law only allows chiefs of police the authority to implement discipline.  However, the OPCR mechanism allows civilians to have significant control over police misconduct investigations and the ability to have a strong voice in case outcomes and shaping the MPD policy and procedure.  I highly encourage you to look at the work and even search individual officer’s discipline records to see their results

There have been life-changing, police-involved events that show how important civilian participation is in policing.  OPCR is a strong entity that has shown results and my hope is that the City enterprise can work together to strengthen OPCR’s model without disrupting the high quality work that is already underway.  I am committed to doing what I can as the Director of Civil Rights to ensure the citizens of Minneapolis continue to have a meaningful and powerful voice in how policing impacts our community.

If you would like to find out more about the OPCR process, you can see the entire complaint process manual here:

For more information on civilian oversight in Minneapolis please see:

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Sick and Safe Time Ordinance Takes Effect July 1

For healthy workers, healthy businesses and healthy communities, a new ordinance protecting time off for people who get sick and work in Minneapolis takes effect July 1. Employers with six or more  workers will be required to provide time off at a minimum threshold of at least one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked. Employers with five or fewer w orkers must also provide sick time, but it may be unpaid. The goal of the ordinance is to protect public health and prevent workers from being penalized because of illness or a need to care for a sick loved one. 

Until this law took effect, four out of 10 Minneapolis workers lacked access to paid sick time.

With some exceptions, the new ordinance governs all employers in Minneapolis and includes full-time, part-time and temporary workers and paid interns.​ Other requirements include:

  • Workers may use leave for their own health and certain family members’ health.
  • Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking may use leave to receive medical treatment and other necessary services.
  • Workers may use leave to care for family members during emergency closure of school or place of care, including for inclement weather.
  • Workers will accrue one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked until they accrue 48 hours per year or 80 hours overall including carryover during additional years.

Paid time off, sick, vacation or other types of leave used at employee discretion often qualify as “sick and safe time.” Employees who already receive such leave in sufficient amounts do not receive additional time off under the new law. The 40 percent of employees – often part-time workers – who previously lack

ed such access will now receive it, and the ordinance creates a minimum standard of protection for everyone.

Paid sick and safe time is intended to:

  • Ensure that workers can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.
  • Reduce public and private health care costs by enabling workers to seek early and routine medical care for themselves and their family members.
  • Make Minneapolis a more secure and productive community.
  • Safeguard the public welfare, health, safety and prosperity of Minneapolis’ residents, workers and visitors.

People who work in Minneapolis whose employers don’t provide the sick and safe time required by the new law can call 311 or visit to ask a question or file a complaint with the Labor Standards Enforcement Division of the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.


Note: In a lawsuit brought against the City of Minneapolis in the case of Minnesota Chamber of Commerce et al v. City of Minneapolis, Court File No. 27-cv-16-15051, the Hennepin County District Court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the City of Minneapolis from enforcing the Sick and Safe Time Ordinance against any “employer resident outside the geographic boundaries of the City.” This case is currently on appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. This temporary injunction order will be applied until further action of the court.

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Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Ambassador Reflects on the Significance of Ramadan

Ramadan is a Muslim holy month that occurs on the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and lasts for 29 or 30 days. This year, Ramadan begins on May 27, 2017.  Last year the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights interviewed MDCR Ambassador Osman Ahmed to learn more about Ramadan celebrations.  As we gear up for this significant celebration, we invite you to check out Osman’s reflections below. 


Osmosman Aan Ahmed is a Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Ambassador representing the Whitter and Lyndale neighborhoods and the Minneapolis Somali community.

Ahmed came to the Untied States and made Minnesota his home in 2004, as a refuge from Somalia.  He obtained a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science and International Studies at the University of Minnesota in 2012.  He started political organizing in 2008 by volunteering to register new voters. In 2012, he worked as an aide to Congressman Keith Ellison, the first Muslim Congressman in America. Currently he works for United States Senator, Al Franken as a field Representative. 

Osman Ahmed comes to the ambassador program with extensive experience as a connector between the Somali community, government and nonprofit organizations. Ahmed is passionate about advancing civil rights protections and educating community. During Ramadan, Osman works to facilitate culture sharing experiences between Muslims and non-Muslims to  promote common humanity and equality for all.

Osman Ahmed’s Ramadan Reflections

What is Ramadan? 

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, where Muslims fast dawn to sunset with no food or drinks. Ramadan is act of worshiping Allah (God), and Muslims do extra worshiping during Ramadan such as praying more, reflecting on life, and paying extra attention to many things that happen throughout the year. Ramadan lasts for 29 or 30 days. 

How did Ramadan begin?

Ramadan coincides with when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (“Peace Be Upon Him”).  Because Muslims follow the lunar calendar, Ramadan does not start or end on the same date given the difference between the Islamic and Gagarin calendars.

How do you celebrate Ramadan?

Each year, Muslims fast 29 or 30 days, depending on the year, from dawn to dusk. We eat food when the sun sets at night, which is called Iftar or breaking the fast. After Iftar, Muslims pray  long prayer call Taraweeh. Muslims pray at home or at the mosques. During the prayer, an Imam, or leader of the prayer recites 1/30th of the Quran each night.  That way, attendees will have heard the entire Uuran recited during the month. On the last night of Ramadan, the leaders of Taraweeh conclude with the  last verses of the Quran. At the end of Ramadan, there is a huge celebration also known as Eid al-Fitr and there is great joy and happiness among Muslims families – the children in particular  because they get money on Eid day.  One of my favorite ways to celebrate Ramadan is by inviting my co-workers and friends who do not practice Islam to a dinner for a culture sharing experience. 

Why do you fast during Ramadan?

We, Muslims fast during Ramadan to reflect on life, to repent to Allah on sins that we commit as human beings, and to feel the hunger, and to remember the less fortunate people in our society. There are many people around the world who don’t have food, so Ramadan is when Muslims are to remember the less fortunate.  Ramadan always reminds me how fortunate I am to have food on the table, shelter over my head, and many other blessings. 

What are you favorite Minneapolis restaurants to visit during Ramadan celebrations?

Often I eat at home, as Ramadan is a great opportunity for families to eat together, pray together, and bond in ritual manners. However, sometimes I do go with friends to eat out at many of the buffet style restaurants in the Twin Cities.  Some of my favorites include, the Marina Grill, Safari Restaurant, Gandhi Mahal, Daalo Restaurant, and East Village Grill, and Kilamanjaro Restaurant. All of them prepare a plethora of tasteful food for those fast during Ramadan. Those are not fasting are also more than welcome to come eat and celebrate. 

The Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance specifies that it is illegal to discriminate based on  race, color, creed, religion, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, marital status, and status with regard to public assistance. As a MDCR ambassador,  what inspires you to promote the message of common humanity  and educate your community of their civil rights protections?

 I believe its imperative to always remember we are humans first and we should always treat each other with respect and dignity. This belief drives me to be a civil rights champion. 


Join Osman,  become a MDCR Ambassador Today!

MDCR ambassadors are community liaisons, and play a critical role in ensuring the voice of the community is heard. The MDCR Ambassador Program focuses on educating and informing the community of its rights to file complaints of discrimination or police misconduct, become certified minority and women owned businesses and to otherwise engage with the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights.

Current employees of Nonprofit or For-Profit Community Organizations in Minneapolis that support principles of equal opportunity, non-discrimination and the objectives of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Ordinance are encouraged to  apply.  To learn more about the Ambassador Program, please fill out the contact form below.

Non Profit or For Profit Community Organization Employer


For reasonable accommodations or alternative formats please contact the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights at 612-673-2697. People who are deaf or hard of hearing can use a relay service to call 311 at 612-673-3000. TTY users call 612-673-2157 or 612-673-2626.   Para asistencia 612-673-2700 – Rau kev pab 612-673-2800 – Hadii aad Caawimaad u baahantahay 612-673-3500.


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PCOC Meeting in a Snapshot: May Edition

The Police Conduct Oversight Commission held its monthly meeting on May 9, 2017. Highlights of the meeting included: a discussion of the draft Domestic Violence Response Study, including speakers from multiple community groups; a Commission Chair report; Committee reports; and case review.

The meeting opened with an update from OPCR Director Imani Jaafar who informed the Commission that some changes and additions were made to the Domestic Violence Study, specifically the appendix. See the updated study here. This update was followed by an invitation for community groups to offer public comment on the Domestic Violence Study. Speakers including a representative from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, a domestic violence survivor and a representative from Global Rights for Women. The representative from the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women spoke to the Commission on behalf of 14 of its member organizations, who are local domestic violence service providers. They asked that the Commission delay the passage of the Study until these groups could offer their input in regard to the report’s findings and recommendations. A domestic violence survivor also spoke to the Commission, explaining her struggle with her perpetrator and the lack of response and assistance she received from Minneapolis police in regard to her situation. Last, a representative from Global Rights for Women spoke. She expressed her organization’s support for the Commission to meet and work with additional local domestic violence groups and service providers that are interested in contributing to the report. The Commission discussed these comments and voted to send the report to the Audit Committee for further discussion and to give the Commission a chance to meet with these interested local groups.

Following discussion on the Domestic Study, Chair Brown provided a Chair report. She informed other Commissioners that she testified at a public meeting held by the Minnesota Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. She spoke of law enforcement and civil rights in the state.

Next were Committee reports. The Policy and Procedure Committee did not meet this month, but the former Committee Chair, Commissioner Singleton, provided Commissioners with an update on the Co-responder Pilot Project. She and other members of the pilot’s workgroup interviewed police officer candidates for positions this week and made selections. Those selections are currently going through approval processes, and the work group has a meeting set with the Assistant Chief to discuss and continue moving the project forward. The Outreach Committee also did not meet this month, but Committee member, Commissioner Foroozan, shared that when they do meet, they plan to work on getting involved in Open Streets events throughout the city this summer. The Audit Committee did meet and spent most of their time on the Domestic Study. The Commission voted to send another possible project to the Audit Committee as well, one looking at Minneapolis Police Department recruitment and physiological testing. The Audit Committee will look into developing a methodology for such a study in the future.

Commissioners then reviewed case summaries 4, 5 and 6 chosen in April, and reviewed cases to be converted into summaries from the May Synopses and chose cases 1, 4, and 6. The meeting then adjourned, with another monthly meeting scheduled for June 13, 2017.

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Impunity In Our Own Backyard

image_2017-04-12_00-22-45_10Reprinted from Global Rights for Women, read the article on here

By Amy Lauricella (Pictured)- Global Rights for Women Staff Attorney

I am deeply troubled that while we at Global Rights for Women(GRW) have been sharing Minnesota’s legacy on domestic violence legal reform with the rest of the world, women in our home city have been left without meaningful access and support from the criminal justice system. Don’t get me wrong. I have never been a police officer and I know from those I have worked with that their jobs are dangerous and challenging. But I also know from my work with victims that the interaction between a first responder — often law enforcement — and a domestic violence victim is absolutely critical. During that contact, the system should be designed to get victims the support they need to stay safe and ensure that abusers knows there are swift consequences for their behavior. Advocates know how difficult it is for victims to successfully leave abusive partners. Victims know from experience that they are most at risk for severe harm when they flee. Being met with indifference or disbelief by law enforcement colludes with the batterers’ threats that, “no one will help you.” The conduct of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) is reinforcing this message.

At the direction of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC), the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR) investigated how the MPD responds to 911 calls reporting domestic violence. The outcome was a PCOC Report uncovering a devastating trend of non-intervention.

According to the report, MPD officers are not making arrests or even writing reports as required by department policy in the vast majority of domestic violence calls — those that entail assault, threats, or fear of harm. MPD officers are arresting and/or writing reports in only19.98 percent of calls to 911 for help with a domestic violence incident. Imani Jaafar, one of the authors of the report, has noted that the arresting rate was even lower. Minnesota law affords broad protection to officers who believe they have probable cause to make an arrest in a misdemeanor domestic assault case, but clearly the MPD is not communicating to its officers that they should be availing themselves of this protection in order to better serve victims.

The 19.98 percent Minneapolis arrest/reporting rate stands in stark contrast to other Minnesota cities. In Duluth, Maplewood, and St. Paul, for instance, the rates of arrest and report writing are significantly higher. Domestic violence practitioners, victims, and abusers alike understand that a call to the MPD for domestic violence is unlikely to result in an arrest. Many in Minneapolis know that people can commit domestic abuse with impunity. When one man moved from Minneapolis to Duluth, his mother remarked to an advocate that “you take this a little too seriously up here” when discussing his criminal sentence. There have been cases in Minneapolis where it takes multiple calls to 911 to warrant adequate police response, a lack of which can contribute to homicide.

In Minneapolis, domestic violence victims are left with little protection or recourse when police fail to write a report. They are also likely to experience other negative impacts, including distrust of the criminal justice system, problems with family court proceedings, lack of access to advocacy and resources, and even employment consequences. The lack of a police report also leaves the criminal justice system with no history of the incident and, therefore, unable to respond effectively later on in the likely event that the victim is suffering a pattern of abuse. Safia Khan’s important work at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women highlights the fact that early and effective intervention by law enforcement in domestic violence cases in collaboration with community advocacy programs reduces the “repeat victimization or even homicide.”

Chillingly, the Minneapolis rate of 19.98 percent for arrests and/or reports in domestic violence calls does not differ from the rate at which arrests and/or reports are made in other types of assaults, evidencing a dangerous culture of apathy among the MPD ranks. According to the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, one in three women have been victims of physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. While I do not know the likelihood of getting assaulted by a non-partner during the course of ones’ life, I am certain it is significantly lower than one in three. And despite this smaller group of victims, the MPD’s response rate is exactly the same.

This concern about apathy is buttressed by the report’s finding that the only factor determining whether a victim receives an adequate response from law enforcement is the identity of the officer. “Report or arrest rates differed by as much as 25 percent based on which officer responded. Differences in rates could not be explained by response time, time of the call, or the time spent on the call.” Ryan Patrick, co-author and lead data analyst for the report, confirmed for the PCOC that taking officer demographics into consideration, such as time on the force, race, and gender, was inconclusive.

This culture of failure to arrest or at least write a report is unacceptable, especially given Minnesota’s rich legacy of leadership in responding to domestic violence.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that even in those cases where officers do follow MPD policies in responding to domestic violence cases, the policies themselves are inadequate. Policies are in place throughout Minnesota, such as the Duluth Police Department, that make it difficult for officers to avoid writing reports for all domestic 911 calls. Additionally, it is an accepted best practice for policies to state that offenders “shall be arrested” when an officer has probable cause to believe that domestic violence has occurred, in contrast to Minneapolis’ “may arrest” standard. Additional written guidance discouraging dual arrests and accurately identifying the predominant aggressor would be another improvement. The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training Domestic Abuse Model Policy is a place to start.

GRW is proud of Minnesota’s leadership in responding to domestic violence. So we are disappointed, to say the least, that the best practices that we promote around the world are not being followed in our own backyard. Nevertheless, we are hopeful that this report will result in MPD partnering more closely with domestic violence advocates and victims to adopt and implement more effective policies and practices. The leadership within the MPD, along with other city leaders, has a real opportunity to uphold and advance Minnesota’s legacy. Increasing the rate at which officers write reports and make arrests will go a long way towards ensuring that our state lives up to its international reputation. Most importantly, women in Minneapolis will be safer and have meaningful support when domestic violence occurs.

We can and must do better for the 66,000 women living in Minneapolis who will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetimes. I am hopeful that the MPD will embrace the report and work with the OPCR and Minneapolis advocates to ensure that for those women who do make the hazardous choice to reach out for help, they get it.

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PCOC Meeting in a Snapshot: April Edition

Melissa Scaia, International Police Trainer for Global Rights for Women, talks to the Commission about the importance of police response to domestic violence.

The Police Conduct Oversight Commission held its monthly meeting on April 11, 2017. Highlights of the meeting included: a presentation of the draft Domestic Violence Response Study, including speakers from Global Rights for Women; Committee reports; and case review.

The meeting opened with a in-depth presentation of the draft Domestic Violence Response Research and Study. OPCR Director Imani Jaafar opened the presentation by discussing how domestic violence can happen to anyone and everyone. The victims are often women, and Director Jaafar discussed how making that first attempt to reach out and get help in a domestic violence situation often means calling the police. This is often a difficult call to make, something Director Jaafar could attest to from her own experience. This is why police response to those domestic calls is of vital importance. Director Jaafar then introduced Amy Lauricella, a staff attorney for Global Rights for Women, a partner in developing the Study. Ms. Lauricella discussed her work, and that of her organization, throughout the world to improve police response to domestic violence. She shared with Commissioners that it takes, on average, seven attempts for domestic violence victims to leave their abusers and that it is often police officers that are in the best position to provide resources to those victims. It is responding police officers who can connect victims to services, advocates and shelters. She also discussed how it is the actions of police officers, in asking questions, engaging, and writing reports, that sets up the entire system to combat domestic violence to work. It is those police reports that can lay the foundation for further protection for victims, such as filing for orders for protection.

Next, Melissa Scaia, an International Police Trainer for Global Rights for Women, spoke to the Commission about her work training the Duluth Police Department, a jurisdiction that has received an international award for its domestic response program. She talked about how abusers know if the place they live is somewhere they can get away with that abuse and how police response is never neutral, it either supports the victim or supports the abuser. Lastly, Ms. Scaia noted that no good domestic response program develops in isolation, a team is needed in order to be successful.

After these two presentations, OPCR Law Enforcement Analyst Ryan Patrick presented the Commission with data uncovered by OPCR analysts during the study. He discussed the findings that reports and arrests are happening in approximately 20% of cases but that there are many more calls that should be ending in at least reports, per the MPD policy requiring a police report for any allegation of domestic violence. He also discussed the finding that the greatest determinant for how a domestic call would be handled was not call load, precinct, or time of day, but most depended on which MPD officers responded. There appears to be officers that handle domestics more consistently with MPD policy than others. Mr. Patrick also discussed proposed recommendations which include an intervention system for officers who are regularly not following policy and not making accurate arrests or reports for domestic calls, a quality control mechanism where a group of individuals could audit domestic calls for policy compliance on a regular basis, and to address gaps in policy such as requiring the use of body cameras in all domestic calls. See the presentation here. See the draft report here. Commissioners will consider the report over the coming month and discuss any potential revisions at the May Audit Committee meeting and general Commission meeting.

Following this presentation, Commissioners made Committee reports. The Policy and Procedure Committee update is that the co-responder pilot is making progress, with the job announcement for the MPD officers to work with mental health professionals already posted. The Outreach Committee is looking into participation a Cinco de Mayo celebration and upcoming Open Streets events, and the Audit Committee informed other Commissioners that they received a preview of the Domestic Violence Response Study at their meeting.

Commissioners then reviewed case summaries 2, 4 and 8 chosen in March, and reviewed cases to be converted into summaries from the April Synopses and chose cases 4, 5, and 6. The meeting then adjourned, with another monthly meeting scheduled for May 9, 2017.

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MDCR Celebrates Women’s History Month

2014-03-11-Womens-History-Month.pngMarch is Women’s History Month. It is a time for commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.  From Susan B. Anthony to Sojourner Truth to Gloria Steinem, suffragists and activists have made their mark on history in their mission to achieving equality.

This month the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights will celebrate the accomplishments of women that have made great contributions both to society and the women’s rights movement. Please follow us on Facebook to see new posts throughout the month, or follow the hashtag #MDCRCelbratesWomensHistoryMonth.

You can find information regarding celebrations and events along with links to resources related to Women’s History Month below.

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