MINNEAPOLIS -- On the day that Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau convened the first meeting of a new advisory board, a group of ministers and advocates from the city's north side called for independent investigations into racial issues in the department.
"We commend Harteau for the aggressive actions she's taking," Rev. Brian Herron told reporters outside City Hall.
"But there are police officers that no longer need to be on this force because they are not enforcing the law. They're not even obeying the law."
Herron, a former member of the Mpls City Council who serves as pastor at Zion Baptist Church, cited the recent cases of off-duty officers blurting out racial slurs during encounters with police in Green Bay and Apple Valley.
"If these officers can behave like this off-duty, then how are they behaving when they have the uniform on?"
The officers involved in the Green Bay incident, Brian Thole and Shawn Powell, are both the subjects of internal affairs reviews to determine what consequences, if any, they will face as a result.
Police officers, as public employees in Minnesota, are entitled to an appeals process. And, as a result of union contract language, the Minneapolis Police Federation can enter binding arbitration with the department on any disciplinary action the union deems to be unjustified.
"The fact that one officer thinks Green Bay is 'too n-word friendly' and that another thinks he has a Constitutional right to call people the n-word, speaks to a very serious problem," Mel Reeves, a free-lance journalist and community justice advocate, told reporters.
Reeves and others who summoned the press to City Hall Wednesday afternoon said they're not surprised by those reports, due to what they called a long history of racially charged interactions between officers and persons of color in Minneapolis.
"Look at the black officers who have had problems within the department," Rev. Jerry McAfee of New Salem Baptist Church remarked.
"If you're having problems with the officers within the department, what do you think happens to the people who don't work in the department?"
Reeves said he believes that race played a factor in the case of Terrance Franklin, a 22-year-old man who was shot by officers during the struggle in the basement of a south Minneapolis house in May.
"Would it have ended differently if Terrance had been a white man?Yes. He would still be alive if he were a white young man," Reeves asserted.
None of the ministers or advocates who appeared at the press conference were included in Chief Harteau's new citizens advisory council.
Harteau's Advisory Council
Harteau and several members of that new board emerged from a closed door session later Wednesday afternoon to say they had a productive and emotional first meeting.
The chief said she did not, at least at this point in time, see the need for outside investigations by the state or federal government into race issues in the department.
She said that she reserves to right to ask for such a probe, but wants to give the new advisory council a chance to work through the process, and draft a plan of action.
Among those who emerged from the meeting were VJ Smith of Mad Dads, Bishop Richard Howell of Shiloh Temple in North Minneapolis and Harry Davis Jr., the son of the late civil rights leader W. Harry Davis.
Harteau said the city was "blessed" to have such a group of citizens willing to donate their time and efforts to the issues the council will be exploring.
She said the reason the meeting was closed to the public in order to promote a more frank and open discussion, so that people who share opinions without any fear of repercussions.
The chief said she'd leave is up to member of the advisory council to decide after opening up future meetings.
A local media attorney looked into the privacy issue, and said that state law does allow those meetings to be closed because it is not an elected body and has no decision-making authority.
The city had a police civilian relations council a decade ago, but it was dissolved during the Tim Dolan era.
(Copyright KARE 2013. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)