From [HERE] and [HERE] In a ruling with broad implications for police discipline, the Minnesota Supreme Court has rejected Richfield's efforts to fire an officer who struck a Black teenager, saying the city must comply with an arbitrator who ruled in favor of the officer.
Richfield Police Officer Nate Kinsey was fired in 2016, about six months after he was caught on video striking a young Somali man on the back of the head and swearing at him, an incident denounced by the Somali Human Rights Commission. The teen was unarmed and not threatening the cop.
In the cellphone video on Twitter, an officer tells a 19-year-old to leave Adams Hill Park. The teen asks him why can't I be in a public park? Then the white officer mushes his face and pushes him.
Kinsey failed to report the use of force, as the police department required. The arbitrator argued Kinsey’s failure to report the behavior was only a “lapse in judgement.”
The Supreme Court decision, released Wednesday morning, was a closely watched test of the authority of labor arbitrators, who are held under Minnesota law to be the final judges of law and fact in disputes covered by many collective bargaining agreements.
Sean Gormley, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc., the state's largest law enforcement union and the one representing Kinsey, praised the ruling.
"Binding arbitration is a pillar of collective bargaining; it is imperative that employers and unions respect and abide by these decisions, even when the outcome is unfavorable to one side or the other," Gormley said in a statement.
Kinsey, 43, of Cottage Grove, did not return a call seeking comment; a union spokesman said he intends to return to work as a police officer.
In her 10-page decision, Justice Anne K. McKeig [in photo] rejected the argument that Richfield's "public policy" interests in police discipline allowed it to override the arbitrator, who found that Kinsey's use of force was not excessive.
"No doubt many observers would find Kinsey's actions disturbing," McKeig wrote. "But state statute requires arbitration, and the City's contract with the Union gives the arbitrator the authority to decide what constitutes just cause for termination. Applying the statute and the language in the contract, and deferring to the facts as found by the arbitrator, we reverse the decision of the court of appeals."
The dispute over Kinsey's firing arose at a time of public outrage over police use of excessive force on the job and concern over a perceived lack of accountability for police actions. The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association weighed in on Richfield's side as the case moved through the courts, denouncing the arbitration system as "broken" with respect to disciplining officers.
Andy Skoogman, head of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said local leaders need greater authority to address disciplinary problems.
"We believe the state's highest court missed a unique opportunity to help law enforcement leaders across Minnesota improve the policing profession," Skoogman said. "Had the Supreme Court upheld the Minnesota Appeals Court ruling that the city was justified in its termination of officer Nate Kinsey, municipal leaders would have more leeway to terminate employees who fail to follow policy and display a pattern of disciplinary problems."
Richfield officials said Kinsey will undertake a "rigorous retraining program," including a comprehensive review of department polices on use of force and other topics and training on implicit bias.
Kinsey must also get his Minnesota peace officer's license reinstated by the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board.