Controversial Reinstatement of Minneapolis Officer


MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – A terminated police officer got his job back after an arbitrator ordered the City of Minneapolis to rehire him. In lieu of termination his punishment was reduced a 40-hour unpaid suspension, KARE 11 reports.

Officer Blayne Lehner, an 18-year veteran of the force was terminated in January by Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau for violating the department policies on use of force, the report says. It was argued that he pushed a woman to the ground, called her a derogatory name and did not report it.

In the termination paper, Harteau wrote: “I have lost all confidence in Officer Lehner’s ability to serve the citizens of Minneapolis due to his poor judgment and his lack of integrity.”

However, earlier this month, the arbitrator, Stephen F. Befort, ruled the city went too far. He reduced the punishment and ordered the city to compensate Lehner for the time he was off the job, which amounted to $40,000, according to the police union.

MPRnews reported that the amount will be reduced by how much Lehner earned working after he was fired according to police union president, Lt. Bob Kroll. He said that’s part of labor law but he thinks that’s unfair to Lehner.

“You’re a guy that goes out and tries to do well and make good for his family and they want to penalize him for it,” said Kroll. “I don’t like that aspect of it, but that is the rule of law.”

Lehner’s attorney Kevin Beck argued that according to the arbitration ruling, Lehner’s use of force was not excessive. He also argued that Lehner had no duty to report the use of force because the pushing was not considered a takedown technique. The union also found no evidence to support a finding that Lehner called the woman by a derogatory name.

Police union officials argued that Harteau’s decision to fire Lehner was too harsh. “He’s an excellent cop,” said Kroll. “He’s an extremely hard worker and he serves the city well.”

Based on city records, Lehner has had prior sustained complaints. In 2012, he was issued two letters of reprimand, and in 2013 he was suspended twice. Then in 2015, he was sued by a man who claimed he was kicked by Lehner in the face, chipping teeth, and rendering him briefly unconscious. The city settled the case for $360,000.

In her response to the result of Lehner’s case, Harteau issued the following statement: “I am disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision. These rulings hinder my ability, as a Police Chief, to create an effective culture of accountability within the Department.”

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