PCOC Meeting in a Snapshot: July Edition

A slide from Director Browne's presentation debunking common misconceptions of the OPCR process.

A slide from the presentation debunking common misconceptions of the OPCR process.

On July 14, 2015, the PCOC held its monthly meeting.  Due to Commissioner absences, quorum was not attained at the meeting and as such, the Commission was not able to make formal decisions as a body.  The Commission was still able to hear public comments and informational presentations. Those presentations included a staff update on the Body Camera Research and Study project, a demonstration of body camera footage, an overview of the OPCR recently released quarterly report, a presentation debunking some of the common misconceptions regrading OPCR data, and an update from the PCOC Outreach Committee.

The OPCR’s Minnesota Justice Foundation Law Clerk, Kaela McConnon, presented a staff update on the Body Camera Research and Study that was undertaken at the previous Commission meeting in June.  The project includes researching best practices which is currently underway, and conducting three community listening session, two of which have already taken place.  The final report will synthesize the information gathered from both sources into policy recommendations to be made to the Minneapolis Police Department.  A presentation of the final report to the PCOC is scheduled for the September 8th Commission Meeting, and the Commission will consider adopting the report and forwarding the recommendations contained therein to the Chief of Police.

On behalf of Deputy Chief Glampe, Commander Granger presented body camera footage to the Commission in order to further Commissioners’ understanding of what said footage will look like.  Footage showed included officers’ response to a noise complaint, an officer conducting a traffic stop, and officers responding to an intoxicated individual. Following the footage, Commander Granger took questions from Commissioners on the technical functions of body cameras.  Commander Granger also informed the Commission that a recent change had been made to the current Standard Operating Procedure on body camera use, requiring officers to activate their body cameras when transporting an individual in a squad car.

Next, OPCR Director Michael Browne presented the second quarter data report on the work of the OPCR.  Data presented included current open cases, case processing time, and discipline issued during the quarter.

Director Browne made an additional presentation debunking common misconceptions regarding data on the OPCR process. See the presentation here. Read more about the OPCR response to such misconceptions in a recent blog post.

Following these two presentations, Commissioner Singleton updated her fellow Commissioners on the activities of the PCOC Outreach Committee.  She announced an poverty simulation event that she and other Commissioners plan to take part in next Tuesday, July 21 at 4:30pm at the Metropolitan State University Law Enforcement Center (1st floor), 9110 Brooklyn Blvd., Brooklyn Park, MN 55445. All are encouraged to attend.

Due to the lack of quorum, the Commission was unable to discuss its monthly committee reports, and case audits. The next PCOC meeting will take place on Tuesday, August 11th at 6:00 PM.

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3 Responses to PCOC Meeting in a Snapshot: July Edition

  1. Chuck Turchick says:

    In his presentation “debunking common misconceptions regarding data on the OPCR process,” Mr. Browne mentioned these eight misconceptions and then presented data he said debunked all of these claims:

    Complainants won’t file a complaint with OPCR [Office of Police Conduct Review] after the changes from CRA [Civilian Review Authority].
    Complainants aren’t willing to follow up with the OPCR after learning about the process.
    The CRA moved more cases past intake stage.
    CRA investigated more complaints.
    CRA resolved complaints faster than the OPCR.
    CRA dismissed fewer cases for no basis.
    CRA cases ended in more policy violations.
    CRA held officers accountable for low level offenses.
    To discuss adequately Mr. Browne’s debunking claims would require a much too long reply. Let me focus on just two of these so-called misconceptions.

    First, in debunking the misconception that complainants won’t file complaints with the OPCR, Mr. Browne compares data for three years of the CRA’s existence with a projected number of complaints during the first three years the OPCR will have been accepting them. But what he neglects to mention is that during the time the CRA existed, a citizen had an option of filing his or her complaint with the CRA or with the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the police department.

    Some citizens did in fact take that latter option. Now, however, all citizens complaints, whether or not they are filed with the IAU, go to the OPCR. So when Mr. Browne wrote in another post here that “Statistics are Facts not Opinions,” he must have assumed his comparative statistics were describing the same things. We’ve all heard the expression, “You’re comparing apples with oranges.” By not adding into the CRA file complaints those citizen complaints filed with the IAU, that may be what Mr. Browne is doing here.

    Second, Mr. Browne debunks the misconception that the “CRA dismissed fewer cases for no basis.” Since I was the citizen who had raised this issue both orally and in writing, I think I am in a good position to assert that Mr. Browne has missed the point and, once again, failed to mention all the relevant information.

    I noticed that of the ten case synopses presented to the PCOC one month, six of them had been dismissed for a “failure to cooperate” on the part of the complainant. After informing the Commission about this in writing, I checked to see how many of the previous 100 case synopses had been dismissed for that reason. I was relieve to see that it wasn’t the 60% that occurred this one month, but rather it was something like 18 or so of the 100. I informed the Commission of that fact in a public comment at their next meeting.

    But it was one of the Commissioners who raised this issue while discussing a case summary at the May 12, 2015, PCOC monthly meeting (see page 6 of the minutes). And while the Commissioner didn’t claim things were better under the CRA in this respect, the OPCR staff informed her they were looking into increasing “the participation rate of complainants when their cases go to investigation.” So even the OPCR itself, while not accepting this so-called misconception, was concerned about complainants that were dropping out of the process after having filed their complaints.

    But more important, Mr. Browne, by not telling the whole story, mischaracterized what the concern was that I raised, and the comparison I had made to the old CRA process. In that process, when complaints were dismissed for reasons other than the officer not being a Minneapolis Police Department officer, or no longer with the Department, the CRA Director would then inform the CRA Board, which automatically held a hearing about the dismissal. That process was required by the CRA ordinance. Now, however, in the new OPCR process, these dismissals are totally within the power of the joint supervisors of the OPCR, viz., Mr. Browne and the head of Internal Affairs, Commander Granger. No other citizen reviews such a decision.

    So when Mr. Browne claims he’s debunking a common misconception, he has created this alleged misconception out of whole cloth. And he is ignoring what the concern really is. That is, the OPCR is dismissing a lot of complaints with no further civilian oversight, such as we most certainly had with the CRA.

    Finally, equally worth noting is that this additional power granted to the OPCR, i.e., to the Civil Rights Department, to dismiss cases with no further civilian review was written into the ordinance by none other than the Civil Rights Department itself. That is where the new ordinance originated; it’s chief sponsor with Civil Rights Department Director Velma Korbel.

    So if something seems fishy, don’t get lost in Mr. Browne’s “debunking” statistics. Look to whether those statistics are comparing similar things, and look to what the real issue lying behind the statistics about which people have raised concerns.

  2. Chuck Turchick says:

    [In my previous reply, I mixed up paragraphs dealing with each of the two “misconceptions” I discussed. I’ve straightened them out in the reply below. If the moderator would delete my earlier reply, that would be helpful.]

    In his presentation “debunking common misconceptions regarding data on the OPCR process,” Mr. Browne mentioned these eight misconceptions and then presented data he said debunked all of these claims:

    Complainants won’t file a complaint with OPCR [Office of Police Conduct Review] after the changes from CRA [Civilian Review Authority].
    Complainants aren’t willing to follow up with the OPCR after learning about the process.
    The CRA moved more cases past intake stage.
    CRA investigated more complaints.
    CRA resolved complaints faster than the OPCR.
    CRA dismissed fewer cases for no basis.
    CRA cases ended in more policy violations.
    CRA held officers accountable for low level offenses.
    To discuss adequately Mr. Browne’s debunking claims would require a much too long reply. Let me focus on just two of these so-called misconceptions.

    First, in debunking the misconception that complainants won’t file complaints with the OPCR, Mr. Browne compares data for three years of the CRA’s existence with a projected number of complaints during the first three years the OPCR will have been accepting them. But what he neglects to mention is that during the time the CRA existed, a citizen had an option of filing his or her complaint with the CRA or with the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the police department.

    Some citizens did in fact take that second option. Now, however, all citizen complaints, whether or not they are filed with the IAU, go to the OPCR. So when Mr. Browne wrote in another post here that “Statistics are Facts not Opinions,” he must have assumed his comparative statistics were describing the same things. We’ve all heard the expression, “You’re comparing apples with oranges.” By not adding into the CRA filed complaints those citizen complaints filed with the IAU, that may be what Mr. Browne is doing here.

    Moreover, since I was the citizen who had raised this issue both orally and in writing, I think I am in a good position to assert that Mr. Browne has failed to mention all the relevant information.

    I noticed that of the ten case synopses presented to the PCOC one month, six of them had been dismissed for a “failure to cooperate” on the part of the complainant. After informing the Commission about this in writing, I checked to see how many of the previous 100 case synopses had been dismissed for that reason. I was relieve to see that it wasn’t the 60% that occurred this one month, but rather it was something like 18 or so of the 100. I informed the Commission of that fact in a public comment at their next meeting.

    But it was one of the Commissioners who raised this issue while discussing a case summary at the May 12, 2015, PCOC monthly meeting (see page 6 of the minutes). And while the Commissioner didn’t claim things were better under the CRA in this respect, the OPCR staff informed her they were looking into increasing “the participation rate of complainants when their cases go to investigation.” So even the OPCR itself, while not accepting this so-called misconception, was concerned about complainants that were dropping out of the process after having filed their complaints.

    Second, Mr. Browne debunks the misconception that the “CRA dismissed fewer cases for no basis.” Once again, Mr. Browne is not telling the whole story.

    He mischaracterizes what the concern really is and the comparison that was made to the old CRA process. In that process, when complaints were dismissed for reasons other than the officer not being a Minneapolis Police Department officer, or no longer with the Department, the CRA Director would then inform the CRA Board, which automatically held a hearing about the dismissal. That process was required by the CRA ordinance. Now, however, in the new OPCR process, these dismissals are totally within the power of the joint supervisors of the OPCR, viz., Mr. Browne and the head of Internal Affairs, Commander Granger. No other citizen reviews such a decision.

    So when Mr. Browne claims he’s debunking a common misconception, he has created this alleged misconception out of whole cloth. And he is ignoring what the concern really is. That is, the OPCR is dismissing a lot of complaints with no further civilian oversight, such as we most certainly had with the CRA.

    Finally, equally worth noting is that this additional power granted to the OPCR, i.e., to the Civil Rights Department, to dismiss cases with no further civilian review was written into the ordinance by none other than the Civil Rights Department itself. That is where the new ordinance originated; its chief sponsor was Civil Rights Department Director Velma Korbel.

    So if something seems fishy, don’t get lost in Mr. Browne’s “debunking” statistics. Look to whether those statistics are comparing similar things, and look to what the real issue lying behind the statistics about which people have raised concerns may be.

    • I would like to respond to each point in your comment. First, while it is true that comparative statistics are challenging, particularly when looking at two different systems, this does not mean that it is not worth doing. This is particularly true when there is a constant comparison of the two systems in public discourse on civilian oversight of law enforcement, those systems being the OPCR and the CRA. Lastly, in order to show positive evolution or change in a system, one can only identify improvement by comparing the system to the one before it.

      1) To begin, it is important to note that the CRA and the OPCR systems define a “complaint” differently. In the CRA system, the first contact a community member makes with the system was considered an “intake” or “preliminary complaint” (from here on this will be called an “intake”), and this intake was reviewed by the CRA manager, who would determine whether it would become a complaint and therefore go to the board for review since the board only reviewed complaints, or be dismissed at the intake stage. The OPCR does not create this distinction between “intakes” and “complaints” as it accepts all signed filings.

      2) You correctly assert that there were multiple bodies with which a complainant could file under the CRA, namely the CRA and IAU. This, however, does not make the number of complaints (or intakes) filed “apples to oranges.” The CRA counted in its number of intakes those that requested an internal affairs investigation.

      3) The OPCR would prefer that no complaints were dismissed due to lack of participation by complainants. The fact that the Office is looking into increased participation does not indicate that the OPCR is concerned with lack of participation, it is merely working toward that ideal. Furthermore, the statistic demonstrates a significant drop in dismissals for lack of participation between the CRA and OPCR, with the CRA dismissing approximately 510 intakes and/or complaints for lack of participation and the OPCR dismissing only approximately 100 complaints. This is a worthwhile item to note and a solid demonstration of improvement in the OPCR process in promoting participation in cases beyond filing the initial complaint.

      4) Lastly, your assertions regarding no basis dismissals are not correct. Intakes, as stated in point (1) could be dismissed by the CRA manager before being reviewed by the board. Those intakes were then not considered “complaints” and therefore could not be reviewed by the board. Therefore, under the CRA, a significant portion of intakes were similarly reviewed by only one civilian, the CRA manager, just like the civilian director of the OPCR. Once more, the CRA manager only allowed approximately 280 of the approximately 1,200 intakes registered to make it past the intake stage in CRA.

      Thank you for your comment and willingness to engage in dialogue regarding civilian oversight of law enforcement in Minneapolis.

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