The city council St. Paul, Minn., voted 5-2 yesterday to remove the two seats reserved for police representatives from the police-civilian review board, after residents complained about the process at a council meeting last month.
"This idea to change who's on the commission has never been about going after police," Kay Pranis told City Pages. "This is about balance, giving much-needed space in the process of reviewing misconduct complaints from a citizens-only perspective."
The Police-Civilian Review Commission was established 25 years ago and has nine members, including the two police representatives. It received 62 complaints last year. The commission can recommend disciplinary action be taken for a wide range of police misconduct, but only the police chief has the authority to impose discipline on cops, and is limited in part by the police contract, which requires discipline, up to dismissal, to be for just cause (which can be arbitrated) and to follow the concept of "progressive discipline," which calls for the use of the least severe method of discipline that would correct behavior.
The police union criticized the vote, saying in a statement that "making change for political reasons represents a complete and tragic disregard for our great officers who put their lives on the line every day," despite the panel's role in the process being completely advisory.