Citizens have asked members of the Police Conduct Oversight System several good questions about a large range of topics: system structure, anonymous filing, complaint retaliation, obtaining statistical information, commission or review panel membership, and filing complaints and lawsuits against police officers. Similar to a post in years past, we will answer a few of the most frequent questions asked about the System.
What is the structure of the Police Conduct Oversight System?
The Police Conduct Oversight System has three parts: the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR), the Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC), and the Police Conduct Review Panel (PCRP). Each branch is designated a specific task in the police oversight system by law, and has an interconnected relationship with each other.
The OPCR is staffed by city employees from the Civil Rights and Police Departments, has the authority to receive and review cases, decide how cases should be resolved, and conduct investigations. The Review Panel is composed of civilian volunteers and a group of sworn officers who assess the results of OPCR investigations and make recommendations on the merits of specific allegations to the Chief of Police. The PCOC reviews patterns of concerning police conduct by auditing summaries of closed misconduct complaints and deliberates on big picture policy considerations and issues recommendations for policy change to the MPD. All three mandates fit together to provide meaningful civilian oversight from a micro level case-by-case basis to a macro level assessment of MPD policy.
Can I file anonymously, or unofficially?
The short answer is yes: the OPCR accepts all complaints, including those submitted anonymously, though signed complaints are preferred as it is a requirement under the Peace Officers Bill of Rights. Additionally, it should be noted that anonymous complaints can be more challenging for the Office to assess and investigate. They can lack essential information and must be corroborated in some way, whether through photos, video, or an additional witness. Should an anonymous complaint need additional investigative action by the Office, the Joint Supervisors can open a case and sign a complaint.
In order for the Office to address a complaint to the fullest degree, it is best to have the signed complaint by an identified complainant. For those still wishing to submit an anonymous complaint, the Office requests that you include as much information and corroborating evidence about the incident as possible. This should include the time, date and location of the incident, along with officer badge numbers, the identity of other witnesses, and any videos or photos of the incident. Without enough information, the OPCR will be unable to move forward with your case.
Will the police retaliate against me for filing a complaint?
The Police Conduct Oversight System takes retaliation very seriously, and understands that a fear of retaliation is sometimes cited as a reason for not filing a complaint. But over the more than 25-year history of civilian oversight in Minneapolis, allegations of retaliation for filing a complaint have been very rare. If the issue were to arise, the consequences for such actions by a police officer are severe. As such, citizens are always encouraged to report police misconduct of which they are aware. For more information on reasons to file a complaint with the Office, please see a further discussion from the Minneapolis Urban Scholars’ Youth Outreach Prezi.
How Many? How Much? Who?
People from around the country have called wanting more information about statistics of our unit and cases. How many complaints were filed with the OPCR last year? What sort of trends do you see? How often does the Police Chief administer discipline to officers, and for what sorts of misconduct?
The Police Conduct Oversight System statistics can be found on the OPCR website under reports. The most recent comprehensive report with this information is the 2014 Annual Report, which provides answers to these questions and much more. Additionally, the OPCR provides quarterly statistical reports to the public during PCOC monthly meetings, which are held in City Hall, Room 241, on the second Tuesday of every month. Find minutes, directions, and more details at the PCOC website.
Am I free to get an attorney even though I’ve filed with the OPCR?
Yes. The OPCR does not offer legal advice or engage directly in court proceedings. We are separate from any sort of legal proceedings (which includes the impound lot, traffic tickets, etc.). If you are interested in filing a claim for property damage, please visit the city’s Risk Management and Claims website. Please note that if you choose to pursue a damage claim, it is a separate process from the Police Conduct Oversight System. Also, the intention of the Police Conduct Oversight System is to address the officer’s behavior as an administrative matter, which has the potential for discipline, mediation, coaching and training.
How Can I get Involved?
Both the Review Panel and the PCOC are composed of volunteers, and applying to those positions is a great way to be involved. For more information on this process, please visit each of the respective groups’ websites linked above. The fall appointment cycle usually begins in August.
You can also attend PCOC meetings as a member of the public. Meeting are held on the first Tuesday of every month, see more information here.