What’s making news in Minneapolis, reported by the Star Tribune’s team of city reporters. Send news tips to suzanne.ziegler@startribune.com.

Trooper placed on leave during probe of training misconduct

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: May 9, 2012 - 7:33 PM

UPDATED at 7:30 p.m.: The State Patrol has placed trooper Nick Otterson on paid leave Wednesday afternoon pending an investigation into his conduct during a training program in Minneapolis.

The announced came on the heels of Star Tribune questions about Otterson.

Lt. Col. Matt Langer, Assistant Chief of the Minnesota State Patrol said in a statement: “Trooper Nick Otterson was placed on paid administrative leave today pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations about his conduct during the DRE training.”

Jay Roland, who was at Peavey Plaza in Minneapolis on Wednesday, said he took part in the drug recognition training, twice going with law enforcement agents who gave him drugs.

He said a law enforcement agent “handed me a bag of pot,” noting that one of the people present was State Patrol trooper Nick Otterson. The authorities told him to smoke as many bowls of marijuana as he wanted to.

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State officials announced Wednesday morning that they were suspending a training program and launching a criminal investigation into allegations that a Hutchinson police officer gave someone drugs.

The investigation stems from complaints last week from Occupy Minnesota protesters that police gave them marijuana and took them to a facility in Richfield. This was allegedly part of the Drug Recognition Evaluator (DRE) certification program, which teaches police how to identify people who are intoxicated.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a statement that an officer from another jurisdiction allegedly witnessed the activity. The department has also suspended the training program.

The State Patrol said last week that the administrator of the program did not believe the activity took place. That changed when an officer came forward to the State Patrol on Friday, said Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon.

“Training law enforcement officers to detect drug impairment helps to keep our roads safe, but we need to ensure that all participants follow guidelines and operate within the law,” Minnesota Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman said.

“I have suspended the drug recognition evaluator training pending the outcome of these investigations and until we revisit and review the curriculum for the program.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Timothy Dolan said the city's police force had no part in the training.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that the alleged actions undermine a trust people must have in others to "keep Minneapolis a safe place to call home."

"I never could have imagined that something like this would happen in Minneapolis, or that it would happen without consulting the mayor and police chief," Rybak said. It's just plain wrong."

He added: "I want to thank the people who documented this issue and brought it forward, and I call on the appropriate officials to assure the people of Minneapolis that this will not happen again."

The Hutchinson police department had no comment Wednesday on the allegations.

“We’re going to let this investigation run its course,” said Hutchinson Chief Daniel Hatten. He confirmed that Hutchinson police officers took part in the DEC training this year.

Hutchinson police make an appearance in the 35-minute YouTube video Occupy activists released last week documenting their allegations.

About 16 minutes into the film, Occupy activist Forest Olivier gets into a Chisago County police car. A Hutchinson police officer is shown talking to Olivier and grabbing McDonalds from the back seat of the car.

It is unclear if this is the same officer who is under investigation.

Staff Writer Matt McKinney contributed to this report.

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