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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Police review chair ordered to do his job

From Dave Bicking: News flash - much more to come later tonight when I have the documents and the time....

Late this afternoon District Court Judge Susan Berk (sp?) signed a Writ of Mandamus directing CRA [Civilian Review Authority] Chair Don Bellfield to obey the law - the CRA Ordinance saying that he SHALL notify the Executive Committee of the Mpls City Council of the failure of Police Chief Dolan to follow the section of the CRA Ordinance regarding the issuing of discipline in sustained CRA cases. He must submit that notification to the Executive Committee by 10am tomorrow morning (Wednesday, Feb 17), OR appear in court to show cause as to why he has not done so.

We couldn't have asked for anything better.

He is being served with that order tonight at his home. It will be up to him which course of action to choose. If he makes the notification, it will happen before or during the Executive Committee meeting which starts at 9:30am. We will be prepared for the court hearing, at which both sides may make their case. The court hearing is open to the public, in the Hennepin County Government Center - check with the assignment desk if you want to come.

This is a granting of the first half of our "Petition for Writ of Mandamus", which is directed at Bellfield. The second half asks the Court to order Chief Dolan to comply with the law, or show cause at a court hearing. That is less urgent - though more important - and will be decided later. This ruling is a good sign, though.

This is a small but significant step toward restoring the authority and purpose of the CRA.

Dave Bicking


At Tue Feb 16, 10:36:00 PM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomorrow's news: Chair Don Bellfield issues letter on CRA stationary cc entire CRA, Mayor, City Council, former Minneapolis Library head, Hennepin County Dog Catcher and the Pope demanding that the judge resign.

At Wed Feb 17, 06:04:00 AM CST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At Wed Feb 17, 05:07:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...


CRA Chair Don Bellfield did not show up in court today. Last night at his home, he was personally served with an order to appear. Instead, his lawyer argued that Bellfield complied eight weeks ago when he sent an email to the mayor and city council as a whole, which included the CRA report. Attorney Jill Clark, representing petitioners Michelle Gross and Dave Bicking, countered that this was not sufficient, that the ordinance states it needs to be a formal notification to the Executive Committee, stating that the Police Chief is failing to comply and is subject to discipline. Without formal notification, it is too easy for this important information to get lost in the shuffle. Later, Michelle said it should be on CRA letterhead.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the tunnel, at City Hall, the Executive Committee met, actually starting a half-hour before the court case began. The city attorney said the court case had no bearing on what they were doing, which is incredible, because they were deciding whether to move forward with the appointment of Dolan. Rybak and Johnson were cheerleaders for Dolan. When Rybak talked about the RNC protest at the Target Center, I looked over at Melissa Hill, who was at that protest. Also in attendance today were Dan Dittmann, Michelle Gross, Dave Bicking, Darrell Robinson, Peggy Katch, and several others. CM’s Glidden and Lilligren voted to move the process forward, so the entire city council can question and vote on Dolan. As a progressive, I feel this stance is entirely unacceptable, that elected officials have a moral duty to do everything in their power to defend peace and justice. CM’s should think for themselves. You can’t count on what other CM’s will do. The Dolan appointment should have been killed in committee. But it wasn’t, and the Dolan appointment moved forward by a 4-0 vote of the 5-member Executive Committee.

In addition to Bellfield, another absentee today was Green Party CM Cam Gordon, the missing vote on the Executive Committee. Three years ago, Gordon failed to block Dolan in committee. Today, Mayor Rybak said that Cam was sick. Because today’s vote was so important, I took the unusual step of going to Cam’s house (he’s my friend on Facebook, I’ve known him since 1993) at 1:35 pm. No one came to the door, but I reached him by cell phone and he told me he was in the hospital. I did not press him for any medical information, and kept things as brief as possible. To be fair, I myself have been sick twice in the past three months. I take Cam at his word, but can’t help but think, what are the odds?

Justin Terrell, who is on the CRA, was at the court hearing, and afterward was upset with Dave Bicking for taking the matter to court. We all rode the elevator together, and I asked Dave if he ignored Justin’s emails. Dave explained that he has been very busy and has found it difficult to keep in contact with everybody. Justin also had said something about white privilege. Just because Dave knows how to file a court case doesn’t mean he’s exercising white privilege. If anything, he’s fighting racism in the MPD, in the form of brutality against people of color, and the demotion of black officers.

Afterward, KSTP TV interviewed Jill and Michelle. I hope it makes the news.

At Thu Feb 18, 10:37:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

[From Dave Bicking]

The reappointment of Police Chief Dolan will be considered by the Mpls City Council's Executive Committee tomorrow morning, 9:30am. This will probably be a rubber stamp of the mayor's recommendation, but it shouldn't be.

Partly in preparation for this, I watched the Executive Committee meeting two weeks ago. At that time they were giving similar consideration to 8 other department heads. I got quite a surprise.

I have been meaning to report on what I heard at that meeting, but as you all know, I have been a little distracted by another issue. I also wanted to follow up with Cam Gordon to get some clarification of what I heard.

That Executive Committee meeting started with a discussion of the performance reviews of the major department heads. I expected they would go into closed session for that. Instead, the mayor talked about the new process started several years ago, called 360-degree reviews. The term comes from trying to get as much perspective from as many different angles as possible, from as many as 20 external "stakeholders".

The mayor wasn't going to discuss any individual performance reviews or ratings, but he could give a "topline" report. In general, across all department heads, highest ratings were in these four areas: ethics and integrity, customer relationships, technical competence, and enthusiasm. Lowest ratings (collectively) were in human resource development, fiscal management and analysis, delegation of work, and communication with subordinates.

Well, that is only moderately interesting, and hardly the kind of information a person would need before voting on reappointments to these positions.

So, Elizabeth Glidden, who is new to the committee (the other four have been on it for the last four years), asks an innocent question: "It's great that we have a standard way of measuring performance. But how will we know more about the department heads' performance for reappointment - for someone like me who was not a participant in these performance reviews?" Thank you, Elizabeth! I guess she "hadn't gotten the memo" - that she and the Executive Committee are just window dressing to cover the power of the mayor.

The City Coordinator Bosacker, the Mayor, and the City Attorney Susan Segal started hemming and hawing and doing their little dance around the issue. Obviously, performance reviews are personnel data, and thus private data under the MN Data Practices Act. But just as obviously, that doesn't keep them from being made available to authorized members of the governing body, City Council. But they really wanted to avoid saying that.

Cam Gordon spoke up and said he has never seen an actual performance review during his 4 years on the Executive Committee. There was a vague agreement to "continue to talk".

At that point, the mayor moved the issue - the sending of all 8 department head nominations to the appropriate committees of City Council for public hearing and a vote. It was quickly approved unanimously.

Clearly, it is our desire that the action on Chief Dolan tomorrow morning not be such a formality.

As I said above, I wanted to check my facts with Cam Gordon to make sure I understood correctly, before sending out this report. Below I have forwarded our email exchange [Contact us for more info -- Tom]: my inquiry at the bottom, and his reply above that….

I think there are plenty of reasons why Chief Dolan does not deserve reappointment. On top of that, there is a procedural concern: the Council members on the Executive Committee should refuse to act until they have access to the Chief's performance review. That's what I would do if I were on that Committee. "Uninformed consent" is no way to govern, and no way to fulfill the responsibility of representing one's constituents!

Dave Bicking

At Thu Feb 18, 10:46:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

To the Executive Committee:

I urge you NOT to move forward with the reappointment of Police Chief Tim Dolan. There are many important reasons why he should not continue as Police Chief:

1) His failure to discipline sustained CRA cases. The recent "CRA Participation in the Performance Review of MPD Chief Dolan" is ample documentation of this. How can the CRA effectively contribute to officer accountability when 21 months of work yields no more than a few letters of reprimand?

2) His violation of the CRA Ordinance by denying discipline based on a revision of the findings of fact by the CRA. Under that same ordinance, the CRA board chair is supposed to notify your committee of his violation and of the possibility of discipline for that violation of the law. This is a law passed by the City Council - please make it mean something. Please put consideration of this on your Committee agenda. The court is taking this seriously. At this moment, CRA Chair Don Bellfield is under court order to report Dolan's violation, or to appear in court at 10am this morning to show cause for failing to do so.

3) The failure to discipline in externally generated Internal Affairs Unit cases. The strict discipline claimed by the Chief applies only to internally generated cases, not citizen complaints of misconduct. It is very telling that the IAU 2008 Annual Report breaks down complaints by internal vs. external, yet when it comes to discipline issued, there is no such breakdown into those categories. Please require the Chief to release those figures for the 3 years of his tenure: discipline in externally generated cases.

4) Failure to respond appropriately to lying by officers. He says it is cause for termination, but finds reasons to avoid actually doing that. The recent case of Officer Appledorn is an example. In addition to leading to miscarriages of justice, or failure to take responsibility for misconduct, this is a defense lawyer's dream. Chief Dolan has just said that Officer Appledorn is unable to distinguish fact from fiction in stressful situations, even when the videotape is clear.

5) Racism within the department. While recruitment of black officers has increased, the current black officers have suffered demotions and harrassment. The settlement of the lawsuit brought by 5 black officers is evidence of that.

6) A continuing culture of fear and intimidation within the department. We see it at the CRA - no officer ever testifies against another. The recent survey of city employees bears this out: "Two-thirds [of police officers] did not answer favorably when asked if they could bring up ethical issues without fear of negative consequences." (KSTP story on survey) That is unacceptable, and that aspect of police culture comes from the top.

7) Much more, but I meant to keep this short.

At Thu Feb 18, 10:46:00 AM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

In addition to the substantive issues above, there is a serious procedural concern. I understand that several members of the Executive Committee have not had the opportunity to review the Chief's performance review, done this past summer. How are they to make a decision without the most critical information? Council members see only certain aspects of the performance of department heads, including the Police Chief. It is good that you are doing the "360 degree reviews" to obtain information from many perspectives. [Though that only makes it more blatant that the CRA was not asked to participate, or even notified of the review!]

How are Executive Committee members to benefit from those multiple views of the department heads they are voting on? The Executive Committee is supposed to be a decision-making body, not a rubber stamp for the Mayor.

(Council member Glidden: I have been meaning for the last two weeks to thank you for bringing up this issue at the last Executive Committee meeting.)

I don't think that Executive Committee members should vote on Dolan's reappointment until they have the information they deserve. "Uninformed consent" is no way to run city government, and it does not properly serve your constituents!


Dave Bicking

PS. Though I am a CRA board member, these comments are mine alone and are in no way intended to represent the position of the CRA.

At Fri Feb 19, 12:20:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

From Annie Young:

Cam had some gall stones removed and is now home. They said he can back to his daily tasks as soon as he feels up to it.

Annie Young
GP 5th Dist - EO
East Phillips

At Fri Feb 19, 12:28:00 PM CST, Blogger Tom Cleland said...

From Dan Dittmann, 2/17/2010, 7:45 pm:

I went to City hall today and listened to song and dance delivered to support Dolan. Unfortunately, the meeting was exactly as I expected. Not one member of the committee even bothered to make mention of the financial bleed occurring due to reckless actions by city employees.

Cam was absent so there was no help there.

Glidden offered comments only critical of the financial handling of the department while staying away from the conduct issue. I should note, this is the same person some Greens have stated is closely aligned with our causes. If this is the case, she was luke warm at best and certainly was not an ally of those harmed by city employees today.

Samuels who is not a member of the executive committee came to support Dolan. While not stating it directly, essentially it was inferred that any cost that brings down crime rates in North is worth paying. My take away - if brutality lawsuits went up to 50 million over a three year period and crime at the same time dropped to one percent of current levels, Samuels would take that offer.

Lilligren and Johnson said nothing substantial.

This matter is now being referred to the council for approval. After some fuss, Dolan will be approved and nothing will change. Maybe I'm wrong, but as is, the evidence does not suggest any other conclusion.

I'd love to be proved wrong, but I won't be. There isn't enough spine in City hall to do so. At the moment, what we have essentially amounts to a crew of over paid bench warmers.

Dan Dittmann


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