The former leaders of the St. Paul commission tasked with reviewing police misconduct cases are asking the local NAACP to help address the issues that led to their resignation earlier this month.
Former Chairwoman Constance Tuck and Vice Chairwoman Rachel Sullivan-Nightengale reiterated concerns Thursday evening about how city and police officials work with the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission and told the NAACP board that community members need to pressure local leaders to make changes.
“I still have concerns about whether or not the issues that we brought up will fade away over time if the community doesn’t pick up those issues and move forward with it, and if the NAACP doesn’t pick up those issues and move forward with it,” Tuck said.
Tuck and Sullivan-Nightengale resigned from the review commission June 4. In a joint resignation letter, they said city leaders, including Mayor Melvin Carter, did not support the commission’s work of reviewing police misconduct complaints.
A third commissioner, Anika Bowie, also resigned.
Farhio Khalif, the St. Paul NAACP’s new president, said the board will not make any decisions until it meets with the St. Paul Police Department and the mayor.
“This is very serious,” she said. “We have to step up and protect and unite our communities.”
St. Paul officials established the Police review commission in the early 1990s. It was initially under the Police Department’s jurisdiction, but in 2016 the City Council voted to remove police from the commission and give oversight responsibility to the city’s Human Rights Department.
The commission reviews police misconduct complaints and makes recommendations for officer discipline. Tuck said Thursday that she believes the Police Department isn’t turning over all of the complaints it receives, in violation of a 2001 agreement between the St. Paul NAACP and the Police Department that says “all citizen-initiated complaints and investigations will be reviewed by the Police Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission.”
“We actually don’t know how many complaints might be out there, and we therefore can’t get a feel for if there are particular officers who are problems, if there’s a particular rule or policy that’s being handled the wrong way — we just don’t know because we don’t have the data,” Tuck said. “And that’s a huge problem.”
The commission detailed the same concerns in its strategic plan, which was completed in February but has not been released publicly. Former Human Rights Director Jessica Kingston, who resigned last year, said she repeatedly raised concerns that the Police Department was blocking investigations of officer misconduct.
Police Department officials have said they are not required to turn over every complaint.
Tuck said Thursday that the review commission and Human Rights Department should have access to the Police Department’s database of comments submitted online, because it could contain complaints of officer misconduct.
She also called on city leaders to encourage residents to use the commission as a resource, to recruit people of color to serve on the commission, to resolve workplace issues raised in the June 4 resignation letter and to publish the commission’s strategic plan.
“The long game, in my opinion, is how much influence is the community going to have going forward in how the Police Department interacts with the community?” Tuck said. “If our resignation was what we had to do to kind of bring light to our concerns, we were willing to make the sacrifice and do that.”
Emma Nelson • 612-673-4509