Letter: Take longer look at Police Civil Service Commission
By Dale Moerke, Luverne
I read with much interest the Aug. 22, 2018 Globe story, “Worthington Charter changed to allow interim ordinances; Police Civil Service Commission still on chopping block.” City Administrator Steve Robinson indicated that the city is moving forward on asking the charter commission to eliminate the Police Civil Service Commission.
I think it’s important to understand the duties of the Police Civil Service Commission. The first sentence of Minnesota statute 419.05 that governs those duties states: “The commission shall have absolute control and supervision over the employment, promotion, discharge, and suspension of all officers and employees of the police department of such city and these powers shall extend to and include all members of the police department.”
I do agree with Robinson’s assertion that the police commission has been ineffective. That has been painfully obvious over that the last several years. Several months after the community forum on policing in July of 2017 sponsored by the Worthington Area Immigrant Advocates, I submitted a data practice request for the minutes and associated information of the police civil service commission. After nearly eight months of waiting, I received the packet of information. Hoping to shed some light on the workings of the commission, I was extremely disappointed by what I received. Of the over four years of data, there were minutes of only one meeting, numerous email exchanges and letters. It is hard to determine when and if the commission met and if any minutes were ever taken during the meetings. While much information was redacted as allowed by law, there was no indication if the black pieces of paper I received were meetings, emails, or from a jammed-up copy machine.
There was also the claim that few Minnesota cities have similar police commissions. If you do a little research you will find a number of cities in fact do have police commissions; including Montevideo, Windom, Willmar, Faribault, Fairmont, Austin and Alexandria. Some cities also have advisory boards in addition to their commissions.
According to the Globe story, Robinson argued that it was difficult to find impartial members. The idea that it’s difficult to find three impartial members to serve on the police commission in a city of around 13,000 is ridiculous and an insult to the integrity of the members of the community.
It has been over a year since the community forum on policing and little has changed. Community members have been shut out of the process. The recently resurrected Charter Commission does not look at all like the community it’s supposed to represent. The community members I’ve worked with and represented in Worthington over many years deserve to have a voice.
Community members are asking: Where is the accountability if the police commission is eliminated? Can we empower the commission to actually do its job? Will the community that is being policed have an avenue to address their grievances? It’s time to take a step back before the only tool available to do those things is eliminated.
The writer is employed in Worthington.