Drug-training cop could face charges

  • Article by: RANDY FURST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 11, 2012 - 9:41 PM

Occupy protesters in Minneapolis had alleged that police officers supplied them with marijuana.

The Hennepin County attorney's office is deciding whether to bring charges against a Hutchinson, Minn., police officer who allegedly provided marijuana to an activist involved in the Occupy protests in Minneapolis.

Bruce Gordon, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said that the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) had concluded its criminal investigation and had forwarded the case to the office of County Attorney Mike Freeman.

"We did receive it, and we are reviewing it for a charging decision one way or another," said Chuck Laszewski, Freeman's spokesman.

The Hutchinson officer, who has not been identified, was involved in the state's Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) program, a staple of law enforcement training. Officers seek out willing subjects, provide them with marijuana and then evaluate them to see if they are impaired.

Protesters in the Occupy protest movement in Minneapolis alleged that law enforcement officers were distributing drugs to them. State law enforcement officers first denied it, but then acknowledged they were conducting an investigation after another officer came forward with similar allegations.

In the meantime, the state DRE program remains suspended pending the outcome of the investigations and a review of the program curriculum. Gordon said that the Public Safety Department's internal affairs division is looking into whether the DRE training program violated any agency policies or procedures.

The department also announced in May that it was conducting an internal affairs investigation into allegations against state trooper Nick Otterson, who an Occupy protester said was present when marijuana was distributed. Asked about that investigation and Otterson's status, Gordon said, "I can't go into any detail. It is still considered active investigative data."

Gordon said that in addition to the investigative material on the Hutchinson officer, the BCA has provided the Hennepin County attorney's office with "anything else uncovered that was discovered during the course of the BCA investigation."

Neither Gordon nor Laszewski would say whether the county attorney's office was evaluating possible criminal charges against other law enforcement officers besides the Hutchinson officer.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224

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