2017 Update: Full Citizen Review Panel Approved in December
The Center for Restorative Justice Peacemaking Has Major Impact on Police-Community Accountability: Police Officers Voted off Police-Civilian Review Panel
The audit of the St. Paul Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission that Mayor Coleman contracted with the School of Social Work’s Center for Restorative Justice & Peacemaking (CRJP) to conduct in 2015 (including our center’s recommendations and the facilitation of three community conversations in three communities of color), had a far larger impact than initially anticipated. In partnership with various community groups and activists, including the NAACP, the Black Ministerial Council, individual members of Black Lives Matter, individuals affected by the over aggressive and even lethal force of police, a very structural and highly controversial policy change was adopted by the St. Paul City Council on December 7 of last year, with a standing-room-only crowd of community members present. The most controversial recommendation that was strongly opposed by the very powerful police union was finally adopted, along with many other recommendations that the CRJP made. This would not have occurred without the leadership and passion of members of the various communities of color. The CRJP did its part with the audit, recommendations, and the facilitation of community conversations. Then various community leaders and activists ran with it, leading to a far greater impact than anyone would have predicted.
Doctoral student Jennifer Blevins played the leadership role in conducting the audit and writing the report. Jennifer and Dr. Raj Sethujara (who teaches at Metro State) facilitated the community conversations, and Professor Umbreit (Director of the CRJP) helped at various points with the overall approach. methodology, data analysis, preparation of recommendations, and negotiations with the Mayor's Office. Particularly with the current very troubling times our nation is facing, this provides a beacon of hope of people power, real and effective social change, and a true academic and community partnership.
2015 Audit of St. Paul Civilian Oversight of Police Conduct
On October 22, 2015, a new report on the audit of St. Paul Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission (PCIARC), produced by the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking, was made public after initial announcements by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and City Attorney Samuel Clark. Since May 2015, the team of Dr. Mark Umbreit, (Professor and Center Staff) Jennifer Blevins (Center staff), and Dr. Raj Sethuraju (Professor at Metro State University) have interviewed city stakeholders and have compiled a 50-page report that includes 18 recommendations for changes. A central component to these recommendations is the positioning of a review board outside the police department in order to provide more community involvement and empowerment. It has been broadly covered in local press, including an article on the front page of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (see at bottom of page).
“It is our goal in the city of St. Paul to have a process of civilian review that is embraced by the community, trusted by the community and does right by the community.”
—Mayor Chris Coleman
The recommendations for changes will be reviewed by city officials this coming winter. City officials have asked the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking to convene three community feedback sessions before the end of the year that are open to the public. These meetings will serve as a vehicle for public input and comment that Attorney Clark will present back to the mayor by the end of this year, thus allowing city officials to adopt possible changes to the report.
Three community Meetings Gather Input from Citizens
The first of three community conversations happened on November 12 in St. Paul to allow citizens to discuss their concerns and hopes as a way to build greater trust and collaboration with the St. Paul Police department. The Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking is providing the organization and facilitation for these meetings.
“Since the passage of the Civil Rights Act, civilian oversight of police work has become a necessity to help bridge the gulf between communities of color and the police in most major jurisdictions in the United States.”
—From the Executive Summary, Jennifer Blevins
Primary Goal of the Audit
The main goal of the audit is to determine what improvements may be made to optimize the achievement of PCIARC intended objectives and uphold high standards of civilian oversight. The audit is grounded in qualitative data gathered from 23 interviews with key stakeholders, and a review of 40 deliberation memos from recent years that cover a total of 310 cases of complaints.
To read more about the release of these reports to the public, read these articles in: