“Really what I was doing — what the whole commission was doing — is spending the majority of our time just advocating and fighting for the PCOC to exist.”
This statement was given by Abigail Cerra, the now-former head of the Minneapolis Police Conduct Oversight Commission (PCOC), after her resignation. This former public defender and Minneapolis civil rights investigator is just the latest, and most high-profile, resignation to rock the PCOC.
The commission has been given the following objectives by the city: “Through public meetings and outreach, the commission gathers input from Minneapolis residents to develop policy recommendations for the city and its police department.”
But Cerra, and other recent members, believe that the mayor’s office does not take the commission seriously.
“…Cerra said the city does not consult the commission on important police matters, such as the latest department contract or Frey’s policy change on no-knock warrants. The city has frequently failed to pay commissioners a $50-per-meeting stipend offered to the volunteer members, which many took as evidence of lack of commitment,” reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Cerra also believes her treatment was political, noting that the commission failed to vote on her reappointment when her term ended at the end of last year.
“I think the city attorney is one person who doesn’t want me on” the commission, she said.
In 2020, Cerra and her predecessor, Cynthia Jackson, began pushing the city to release misconduct records that fell below the threshold of requiring disciplinary action. Policy on these complaints lead to “coaching” of officers and allow the records to remain private. Cerra argues that this is a misinterpretation of the law and city policy but made little progress with elected officials.
Ultimately, it appears that inaction and little progress has been the common thread leading to not only Cerra’s resignation, but that of others, including the above-mentioned Jackson.
“We don’t do a damn thing,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want to lend my name to that.”
Now the commission’s vice-chair, Jordan Sparks, doesn’t believe he will stay on much longer either.
“It’s been this incredible exercise in frustration.”
Minneapolis is the infamous epicenter of the Defund Movement, and the city’s officials were quick to adopt the more extreme ends of law enforcement reform after George Floyd was killed in the city. The results, however, were disastrous, leading to massive spikes of violent crime and a breakdown of law & order in the city.
While it may be true that the city’s government is not working in lockstep with the PCOC, perhaps the problem stems from the perceived function of the commission by its members versus its function in reality.
Often, members of these boards work to gain increased control over a community’s law enforcement instead of honoring their commitment to neutrality on behalf of the public. We cannot say whether this is true or not of Cerra, but it appears evident that there is a deep rift between the authorities of Minneapolis and the members of the PCOC.
Image Credit: Photo by Maggie Yap on Unsplash
The Civilian Investigative Panel investigates police misconduct in Miami, Florida and has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Supreme Court case that has law-enforcement agencies divided.