The Minneapolis Police Department sought to fire Sgt. David Clifford, a SWAT team leader, nearly two months before he was convicted of felony assault over an off-duty incident last year.
The department said in a release Wednesday that Clifford was terminated from the force after his April 13 conviction for punching patron Brian Vander Lee at an Andover bar in June 2012. Vander Lee fell backward, hitting his head against the concrete patio floor. He underwent three brain surgeries after the incident.
The department first moved to fire Clifford as early as Feb. 21 after an extensive review by its internal affairs department, the release said.
Clifford appealed through the police federation, the department’s union. A grievance was filed protesting his termination. That appeal was withdrawn after Clifford’s conviction in Anoka County. His termination date from the Police Department was April 22.
He is scheduled to be sentenced in Anoka County District Court on July 11.
Clifford’s attorney has requested a new trial based, in part, on jury interaction that he says he witnessed while a surveillance video of the incident played in court. Requesting a new trial is a common procedure before a formal request for an appeal.
“Mr. Clifford’s conduct that day is in direct conflict with the core values and the mission of the Minneapolis Police Department and what we represent,” Chief Janeé Harteau said of the June 16 incident.
“This incident did occur during off-duty hours, but as law enforcement officers we are held to a higher standard of conduct.”
Clifford began work with the force in 1993. He was nominated for the Medal of Honor and received seven other department awards, including two Medals of Valor and a Lifesaving Award. He received a letter of commendation for his work with the U.N. Mission in Kosovo and as an international police officer.