A Minneapolis police officer reassigned against his will testified in Hennepin County District Court on Tuesday that Assistant Chief Janée Harteau, nominated to become the next police chief, vigorously supported his removal from an FBI-led task force but that current Police Chief Tim Dolan expressed remorse on how it was handled.
Lt. Andrew Smith, transferred in 2011, also accused Deputy Chief Scott Gerlicher of conducting a "witch hunt" against him and Sgt. Patrick King, also reassigned.
"No matter what we did, Gerlicher was going to find a problem or manufacture a problem," Smith said.
Smith and King have sued the city of Minneapolis, alleging they were transferred in retaliation for their roles in a 2007 investigation into corruption inside the department.
The trial, which enters its fourth day Thursday, has lifted a curtain on some of the internal conflicts in the department. The city denies the officers were victims of retaliation. Harteau and Dolan are scheduled to testify Friday, and Gerlicher will testify next week.
Smith headed the Violent Offenders Task Force, later merged with the FBI-run Safe Streets Task Force. He testified he was called into a meeting with Harteau and Gerlicher on Feb. 14, 2011, and was told by Harteau that he and King were being "relieved of duty." King was on vacation.
He said Gerlicher told him there were management issues. Smith said he and King were forbidden to return to their office, which made them "look like criminals" and their office like "a crime scene."
"I was shocked," he said. "I believed this course of action would destroy our careers and reputation."
A few hours later, without explanation, he said, the suspensions were lifted and he was told he was being assigned to head the department's juvenile division, and King was moved to the licensing division.
Dolan had approved the transfers, but Smith said the chief later told him "it never should have happened and he was given bad advice." He said Dolan also said King was being "wasted" in the licensing division but that the juvenile division position would be a "good thing" for Smith's career.
Smith said he ran into Harteau at a training session, where he said Harteau smirked and said, "Andy, I hope you are enjoying your new job."
Said Smith, "She seemed to be enjoying my misery."
Patrick Burns, Smith's attorney, has suggested Gerlicher targeted Smith and King because Dolan chose them to investigate allegations of police corruption. Burns said the chief bypassed Gerlicher, who heads the internal affairs unit.
Smith spent much of the day listing and refuting allegations he said had been made against him by Gerlicher before and after the transfer. Assistant City Attorney Tim Skarda said there were explanations for the accusations, which he will bring out later in the trial.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224