Another High-Profile Police Termination Reversed

In another case that seems ripe for appeal to District Court, an arbitrator reversed the City of Duluth’s decision to terminate an officer following the arbitrator’s finding that the officer used of excessive force and failed to report that use of force to his supervisor in a timely manner.

The arbitration award City of Duluth and Duluth Police Union, Local No. 807, found that nine-year veteran officer Adam Huot dragged a handcuffed man down a corridor. The incident was captured on body camera video. See http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/crime-and-courts/4466736-video-shows-duluth-police-officer-dragging-handcuffed-man-slamming. At the end of the public video, the subject’s head hits a door, then the officer stops dragging the man. The City made the decision to terminate the officer, stating the officer had been disciplined once before for excessive force and coached several times on maintaining composure with non-compliant subjects.

In returning the officer to duty, Arbitrator Bognanno found that the City’s discipline met the first six tests of just cause, but that the discipline administered was excessive, and returned the officer to duty without backpay.

Based on the Minnesota Court of Appeals’s decision in City of Richfield v. Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc., this seems like another award that is ripe for appeal based on a violation of public policy. In that case, the Court decided there is a “clear public policy in favor of police officers demonstrating self-regulation by being transparent and properly reporting their use of force,” and a “public policy against police officers using excessive force because the only way a city and police department can successfully uphold that public policy is if they are given the opportunity to review occasions involving the use of force.” Based on that language alone, one could see a district court taking a very close look at this case, provided that decision remains intact when it is reviewed by the Minnesota Supreme Court later this year.