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Friday, February 05, 2010

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.


At Fri Feb 05, 09:26:00 AM CST, Blogger Farheen Hakeem GPMN delegate said...

Thank you for being there Tom. The 5CD lost a great person.

At Fri Feb 05, 05:08:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Thank you Farheen.

At Fri Feb 05, 05:42:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Below are three significant motions Dave Bicking offered at the meeting, none of which passed.

- MOTION 1 -

The CRA Board directs the Board Chair to invoke Section 172.130(d) of the CRA ordinance and notify the Executive Committee of the Chief's failure to comply with the requirements of that section, particularly the failure to base decisions on the adjudicated facts as determined by the CRA Board.

OUTCOME: This failed 2-5.

- MOTION 2 -

CRA Motion, 2/03/2010 Board meeting, regarding Chair Bellfield’s letter about Star Tribune article, sent to City Council and others on 1/29/2010:

Whereas, Chair Bellfield sent a letter to City Council, the Mayor, and the Civil Rights Director on 1/29/2010, criticizing the actions of a CRA Board member who was quoted in a Star Tribune article, and

Whereas, the letter was signed by Chair Bellfield with his CRA title, and the letter was sent on CRA letterhead, thus indicating that the Chair was speaking for the board, and

Whereas, Chair Bellfield had not consulted with the board or received any direction from the Board to send such a letter, and

Whereas, the actions that were criticized were within the rights of that board member, who did not claim to be speaking on behalf of the board, therefore

Be it resolved that:

The CRA board clarifies that the Chair was not speaking on their behalf, and they did not authorize the letter.

The CRA board as a whole clarifies that it does not agree with the content of the letter.

The CRA board authorizes the drafting of a letter clarifying its position as stated above, with that letter to be sent to all the recipients of the letter sent by Chair Bellfield.

OUTCOME: This motion was tabled.

- MOTION 3 -

CRA Motion, 2/03/2010 Board meeting, regarding Chair Bellfield’s 1/25/2010 email to the board:

Whereas, Chair Bellfield sent an email to Board member Bicking, copied to the rest of the board, stating that Bicking must resign from the board if he participated in a privately-sponsored community forum the next evening, and

Whereas, Chair Bellfield had not consulted with the board or received any direction from the Board to send such an email, and

Whereas, under CRA Ordinance and Administrative Rules, the Chair has no authority to remove a board member or to require the resignation of a board member, and

Whereas, the authority to remove a board member is reserved to the City Council with approval of the Mayor under the CRA Ordinance, and

Whereas, Rule 11D of the Administrative Rules states that “A Hearing Panel Member shall be disqualified from sitting on that Hearing Panel if he/she has a demonstrated personal bias or prejudice, or the appearance thereof, in the outcome of the complaint. * This does not include holding or manifesting any political or social attitude or belief * which does not preclude objective consideration of a case on its merits.” That rule gives examples of bias or prejudice that do not apply in this case: participation in a community forum; therefore,

Be it resolved that the CRA Board does not endorse the content of Chair Bellfield’s email, and that the Board clarifies that the Chair does not have the power to call for a member’s resignation, and that the members’ rights to free speech and free association should not be limited unless they preclude objective and impartial adjudication of cases, or unless the member represents his/her personal views as being those of the CRA board as a whole.

OUTCOME: This failed, 2-4, with 1 abstention, and was the vote to “gag Bicking” described above. Pam Franklin, the abstaining vote, said later she lost track and would have voted in favor.

At Sat Feb 06, 05:09:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

CORRECTION: It's COMMUNITIES United Against Police Brutality.

At Fri Feb 12, 02:28:00 PM CST, Blogger SheilaCecilia said...

Tom, I'd like to talk to you about this further for a story I'm writing for the Twin Cities Daily Planet. Could you email me at sheila@tcdailyplanet? Thanks.

Sheila Regan, Freelance Writer

At Fri Feb 12, 04:29:00 PM CST, Blogger Justin said...

Tom, your trippin. We didn't abandon or attempt to gag Dave. Dave can say what he wants to who he wants to. I would like for him to be more considerate of the perception his association with the CRA creates and that is a big difference than gagging him.

The truth is as I stated at the meeting, Dave does good work on the Board. He is fair when it comes to his cases; he often takes the lead on important work especially around policy. Dave is well learned and versed in the history of the CRA and he has a strong community following who are interested in our work. There is long list of things I could say positive about Dave.

My only issue with Dave is his methods. Dave does not consider how his actions impact the perception of the Board. I am not interested in gagging Dave, Dave can say whatever he wants to whomever he wants. My view is that it would be helpful if he made a distinction of his own views from his association with the Board.

Tom, I understand that you are trying to support your fellow green party guy and all, but really? You were at the meeting and you know that I stated my support for Dave. It was a bad move for Dave to put those motions on the table when Don was not there. It is Daves bad timing and lack of strategy that forced us not to vote. I do agree, that by not voting on his motions we in effect did not voice support or take action to support him, but that is his fault for trying to strong arm the Board.

At Sat Feb 13, 10:11:00 AM CST, Anonymous Michelle Gross, CUAPB said...

It is Justin Terrell who is "trippin'" if he thinks that Dave Bicking is hurting the CRA board. He should be worried about the board's reputation in the community, which considers it a do-nothing outfit that refuses to stand up to brutal cops. Terrell and his fellow board members have only fueled that rep as they sell out the community. Let's not forget that not only did they throw Dave Bicking under the bus but they refused to direct their chair to notify the city council's Executive Committee that Chief Dolan has been violating the law, a duty REQUIRED under the ordinance. They made this decision after a 5 minute visit from the chief--the first since he became chief--and a few vague promises. Talk about drinking the koolaid.

Through Dave's work of writing the performance review of Chief Dolan and pushing for changes in the MPD Taser policy, he has helped the CRA meet its mission and he should be lauded for it, not publicly excoriated by Terrell and his ilk.

Terrell claimed at the CRA board meeting on 2/3 that he "supports" Dave and he received ample evidence that Dave has consistently made it clear that he was presenting his own views and not representing the board. Yet Terrell was the first one to publicly castigate him at that meeting.

In totality the actions of Terrell and the rest of the board (except for Mr. Zuege) betrayed the mission and reputation of the CRA and they should, therefore, resign before they do any further harm to the community.

The CRA is one of the few protections the community has against brutal cops (CUAPB is the other) and we will not stand idly by while this agency is disempowered by members of its board. The community fought hard for a CRA and we demand it do its job. I urge all concerned members of the community to attend the next CRA board meeting on March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, room 333. And don't forget that there will be a public hearing on the nomination of Chief Dolan at 1:30 that same day at City Hall.

We can take back this city and make police accountable to the community. Make your plans now to be there on 3/3 at 1:30 p.m. for the Dolan public hearing and 6:30 p.m. for the CRA board meeting.

At Sat Feb 13, 11:04:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...



You wrote “Dave does not consider how his actions impact the perception of the Board.” The truth should be the focus; accurate detailed information should be the focus. The work should be the focus.

Justin, just focus on doing the work in an honest and accurate manor and don’t worry about perception of the Board. Speak the truth and let the chips fall where they may. Don’t worry about who gets mad.


At Sat Feb 13, 01:56:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Justin, thanks for at least going on record in support of Dave publicly on this blog. Now, can you tell it to the council?

I wish I could trust you, but it sure looks like you guys are pulling the old switcheroo, passing around the buck, and running the clock out on Dave. I have never met Don Bellfield, but my impression is that his shot was cheap. His vacation may have been planned a month in advance, but there’s got to be an Internet café in Cancun, if you need his input that badly. So he snipes at Dave in a memo to the city council, then takes off, and you decline to bandage the wound, because you say Bellfield needs to be there. Meanwhile, the CRA has no meetings between Feb. 3 and Mar. 3, and you know the city council will probably determine Dave’s fate sometime in March. So this issue is just hanging out there for another month, leaving a bad impression with the council, and giving them an excuse to cut Dave.

We all know Dave got in on a fluke in May 2008, after the mayor’s veto didn’t go through, due to a technicality. If Rybak had gotten his way, Dave never would have served on the CRA, and the performance review of Dolan might not ever have been written. Dave’s chances for reappointment are slim enough as it is, without the CRA piling on.

The mayor and city council appoint the Police Chief, and the mayor and city council appoint the CRA, so I’m not surprised if you feel conflicted on this. You can tie your fortunes to the mayor and city council, but the more people learn about Dolan and the MPD, the less appealing that may be.

Tom Cleland

At Mon Feb 15, 10:30:00 PM CST, Blogger Justin said...

this is all about perception. Tom, CUAPB, MPD, the community, everyone has a perception of what we are doing. By design CRA is in the middle and we can not make everyone happy. We have a simple job to do and that is adjudicate complaints of misconduct of MPD officers. We are not advocates for anything other than the process (i,e: obtaining resources for CRA staff, suggesting policy to MPD, outreach to the community and so on).

Tom, you are right, Dave is most likely not getting reappointed. But that is due in most part to Dave's record and some of his methods. Also, I agree that Dave was the driving force behind much of the work we got done this past year. And I will also add on that I did not agree with the methods of our Chair when he sent a letter to City Council. In doing so, that letter spoke for Board Members and in fact we were not consulted.

The thing that really sucks, is that Dave's motions were an attempt to strong arm the board into supporting him and he did not have to do that. We would have supported him and I told him that I was going to make space and time in the meeting for Board Members to do so. For Dave to show up with two pages of motions putting words in our mouth is an example of a method Dave often employs that I take issue with. And it didn't work. Had he let me create time and space for Board Members to voice their support we could have come up with a motion at that time that would have been a collaboration of Board support for Dave. But Dave is not interested in collaboration, hence his non response to my emails, phone calls and his co sponsor of the action being taken against our Chair.

People need to understand that "all things are permissible, but not beneficial." Dave can do what he wants and say what he wants, but it is not beneficial for the Board or his position on it.

I like Dave, but he continues to make it hard for us to support him. I think he knows he is in most likely not getting reappointed and is kicking up dust to push his CRA agenda on his way out the door.

Honestly, I really don't mind. Dave is a reminder that our Board is capable of doing a lot more than we do. I hope that if he is not reappointed that his term serves as a lesson to present and future Board Members that CRA can make moves and influence the system.

I still disagree with his methods and that is my right. Right?

At Tue Feb 16, 01:48:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

Justin, you have that right as an individual. As a CRA board member, you missed a chance to set the record straight. Please see Michelle's additional comments after this article from the TCDailyPlanet:

Minneapolis Police Chief Dolan reappointment sparks controversy at Civilian
Review Authority

As Michelle points out, "Mr. Bellfield issued a letter to the mayor, city council members, civil rights director and others ON CRA LETTERHEAD and represented that he was speaking for the entire board when he excoriated Mr. Bicking. The board had not met to approve such a letter. Therefore, he actually broke the rule about not representing the board without permission--the very rule for which he incorrectly called out Mr. Bicking."

At Tue Feb 16, 04:00:00 PM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...


1. I don't see how proposing motions is "putting words in [your] mouth." You are free to reject the motions, which you did.

2. You wrote: "We could have come up with a motion...of board support for Dave." The mere fact that Dave's motions were tabled or failed didin't preclude any member of the board from trying to come up with such a motion. In fact, it could have been offered as a substitute motion to any of Dave's motions. No one offered such a motion. The rejection of Dave's motions did not prevent that from happening. If anyone on the Board wanted to propose a motion of support for Dave, why didn't they?


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