CRA abandons Bicking
On Wed. Feb. 3 I attended a meeting of the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority (CRA), a volunteer board appointed by the Mayor and City Council to investigate citizen complaints of police misconduct.
The meeting began with a surprise visit from Tim Dolan, who had not attended a CRA meeting since becoming police chief. He spoke for a few minutes, and left shortly after. He stated that he does believe in civilian review, and expressed a willingness to answer CRA questions at a later date.
This apparently so impressed the board that they failed to get anything in writing, leaving to chance whether Dolan will keep his word. The CRA refused to go on record. They rejected a resolution, offered by Dave Bicking, which would have verified that Dolan follow through.
But the main event of the evening involved a written message from CRA Chair Don Bellfield to CRA member Dave Bicking, calling for Bicking to resign if he attended a forum on whether to reappoint Police Chief Dolan.
The following paragraph is from an email I got promoting the Jan. 26 forum:
“DAVE BICKING: Member of the Mpls Civilian Police Review Authority (CRA), which recently released an 18 page report on the performance of Chief Tim Dolan in relation to his impact on Civilian Review. The report rates Dolan as ‘far more negative than positive’, especially in the area of imposing discipline on officers.”
Bellfield, who was absent from the meeting, contended this was not neutral enough, even though the promotion nowhere claimed Bicking was speaking on behalf of the CRA.
So Bicking offered some resolutions which would have clarified that the CRA was not calling on Bicking to resign, since members have a right to exercise their freedom of speech as individuals on their own time.
The following CRA members voted to gag Bicking: Justin Terrell, Vernon Wetterach, Sharlee Benson, and Patrick Kvidera. Abstaining was Pam Franklin. Voting in favor were Dave Bicking and Austin Zuege. Staffer Lee Reid spoke about respect as a reason to gag Bicking.
The board did adopt unanimously a resolution to meet so they could clarify their neutrality policy.
They then opened the meeting for 3-minute statements from the public. It was a Who’s Who of Minnesota’s leading progressives, there to defend Dave. Michelle Gross of Citizens United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) was furious. When acting chair Justin Terrell said that her time was up, she defied him to call the cops, and kept on speaking. Darrell Robinson, also of CUAPB, and who has been beaten by police, reminded the board that the city is under siege. Michael Cavlan accused the CRA of complicity with the Mayor and City Council. Also speaking were Amber Garlan, Jan Nye, David Weisberg, and myself. Also in attendance were David Shove, Melissa Hill, and Dori Ullman.
When it was my turn to speak, I said I was at the Jan. 26 meeting, and that Dave Bicking stated repeatedly that he was there as a private citizen, and not speaking on behalf of the CRA. I said that as private citizens we have a right to exercise our freedom of speech. I quoted Thomas Jefferson, “Information is the currency of democracy,” and asked, “How can we have an informed citizenry if our brightest citizens are censored from voicing their opinions?” I agreed with others that Dave was quite an asset to the CRA, and that their work is important. I explained how, as a political activist, I set out to verify CUAPB claims, and how my research was documented on my blog. I mentioned Dominic Felder, Tycel Nelson, the black cops that were demoted under Dolan, and how Dolan gave the Medal of Valor to the cop who shot Fong Lee.
After the meeting, I asked Michelle Gross what motivated Justin Terrell, Vernon Wetterach, Sharlee Benson, and Patrick Kvidera. She believes that they’re benchwarmers, looking to pad their resumes, possibly seeking higher office in the future, and that’s why they don’t want to rock the boat. I asked her about CRA duties, and she explained that reviewing citizen complaints is just the tip of the iceberg. They need to be doing a lot more in terms of citizen outreach. Well, if they’re not doing it, and Dave can’t do it, then where does that leave us? Afterward, Justin Terrell told me he would continue to support Dave, but he sure didn’t go to bat for him during the meeting.