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Appeals Court Upholds Richfield Police Officer Discipline

Just last week, I complained that courts are too often rubber-stamping excessive police force. On cue, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a great decision today for Minnesotans who care about police accountability.

In City of Richfield v. Law Enforcement Labor Services, Inc. (on behalf of Nathan Kinsey), the Court of Appeals overturned an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate Nathan Kinsey, who was fired by the City of Richfield police department for repeatedly failing to report use of force.

From the decision:

We agree that Kinsey’s repeated failure to report his use of force makes him a serious risk to public safety and the interest of the public must be given precedence over the arbitration award reinstating him.

Reinstating Kinsey—an officer who admittedly failed to report his use of force when he should have and has had prior offenses and warnings regarding the same duty to report—interferes with the RPD’s legal obligation to establish and enforce minimum standards of conduct for its police officers. Specifically, it interferes with the clear public policy in favor of police officers demonstrating self-regulation by being transparent and properly reporting their use of force.

Further, the arbitration award interferes with the 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.

We are aware that our decision today is only the second time this court has vacated an arbitration award involving the reinstatement of a Minnesota Police Officer because of a violation of public policy. See Brooklyn Center, 635 N.W.2d 236 (applying the public- policy exception to vacate an arbitration award that reinstated a Minnesota Police Officer for the first time). We do not take this action lightly, but rather thoughtfully and unanimously. Nevertheless, we are obligated to follow the law. To do otherwise would violate a well-defined and dominant public policy by jeopardizing public safety and undermining public trust in law enforcement.