Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Recent News
Home / Special Sections / Attorneys of the Year / 2021 Attorneys of the Year: Abigail Cerra
Abigail Cerra
Abigail Cerra

2021 Attorneys of the Year: Abigail Cerra

Abigail Cerra was in a good place. She liked being senior counsel for Wells Fargo, and she did public service in the bank’s Eviction Prevention Project. But when Imani Jaafar, director of the Office of Police Conduct Review, asked her to join the Police Conduct Oversight Commission, Cerra couldn’t turn down the chance to get involved. The commission studies cases and the environment in which they happened.

Cerra applied and was appointed to the commission in January 2020, months before Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. “We’re trying to learn lessons from high-profile cases so we don’t ever see this happen again,” Cerra says.

As a commissioner, Cerra is trying to make policing more transparent while fighting for better practices and more public understanding. She argued against putting officers with complaints against them into “coaching,” rather than discipline, which—unlike coaching—is revealed to the public. Before his murder of George Floyd, she explains, Chauvin had numerous incidents of excessive force that were neither disciplined nor disclosed to the public.

She also worked to uncover whether training that could have saved George Floyd’s life had actually been delivered to MPD officers. In 2010, the settlement of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over the restraint-related death of David Smith required the police department to provide training in the risks of positional asphyxia.

There are some victories. MPD’s new medical support division now trains officers more about the risks of restraint. Hennepin County Medical Center is reworking their law enforcement training, and will no longer discuss the discredited concept of excited delirium.

Those are a few bright spots in what to Cerra is the long haul. “There isn’t an easy answer for responding to people in crisis,” she says. “I wanted to promote those nuanced conversations between first responders, medical professionals, and others.”

Read more about Minnesota Lawyer’s superb class of Attorneys of the Year for 2021 here.

Gain access to all of our great content with a month-to-month subscription. Start your subscription here

About Holly Dolezalek

Leave a Reply