Task force calls for citizen review board for Duluth police

The Duluth Task Force for Improved Community Police Accountability on Monday recommended a number of measures to better build trust and respect between police and the community.

The Duluth Task Force for Improved Community Police Accountability on Monday recommended a number of measures to better build trust and respect between police and the community.

Task force members recommended following a hybrid model allowing for both internal and external investigations of the 60-70 complaints the police department receives each year. The hybrid model is a unique one offered by consultant Eileen Luna-Firebaugh of the University of Arizona, who was commissioned to complete an assessment earlier this year.

Luna-Firebaugh said in her report she has never recommended internal investigations in other communities, but she cited the commitment of the Duluth Police Department to the process and a high level of confidence shown in the department through a community survey as reasons for it making sense in Duluth.

"Luna-Firebaugh applauded us for our relationship with the community and for the police department's involvement in the effort," Duluth Police Chief and task force member Gordon Ramsay said. "The bottom line is if (these measures) build trust I'm all for it."

The task force also recommended two options for external investigations, including developing a citizen review board that will have the authority to conduct investigations or supervise investigations done by others internally or externally. It also will have the authority to hear and grant appeals by members of the public to investigate findings.


The other option recommended is creating a new position at City Hall, that of independent auditor/chief investigator. That person would take police department complaints, carry out and supervise investigations, review investigations done by the Duluth Police Department and provide recommendations for improvement.

Ideally, the task force would like to see someone hired permanently in this position, although task force member Doug Bowen-Bailey said they realize budgets are tight.

Ramsay, however, said he did not support hiring someone in that position.

"We're holding positions vacant right now due to budget uncertainty," he said. "And I don't support any city money going toward this until the police department is fully funded. The auditor position is kind of the dream."

Other task force members said they would seek funding for the position from other sources and that they would at least initially support filling the position on a contractual basis.

As far as the composition of the citizen review board, members of the task force recommended it be comprised of nine people from diverse backgrounds and different neighborhoods in Duluth.

Anyone will be able to apply for the board, similar to other city-related boards, with the mayor recommending finalists and the City Council voting on those selections. Once selected, board members would then undergo training in the understanding of police procedures, reviewing complaints and investigation. There also would be a police liaison to serve as a resource for answering questions.

The next steps in the process include gathering input on the proposed recommendations from the community and from police officers. Once that is complete, an ordinance will be drafted and presented to the Duluth City Council. The citizen review board could be active by late next fall, according to Ramsay.

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