A Hastings police officer accused of stealing a corkscrew from a restaurant has been cleared on two counts of theft, the Hastings Police Department announced Thursday.
Chief Paul Schnell said that as a result, officer Rene Doffing, who has been on administrative assignment, will be going back on patrol as soon as it is practical.
Schnell also said the department is launching an internal investigation into the incident.
"We recognize the power and the efforts of the jury and the determination that they made," Schnell said.
The case was investigated by the Eagan Police Department after Doffing was accused of taking a corkscrew from a Green Mill restaurant in Hastings in November 2010.
The verdict in the theft case was announced Thursday morning by a Dakota County District Court jury after a two-day trial.
According to charges against Doffing, he reached over the bar at the Green Mill and grabbed the corkscrew while the bartender was pouring him a soda. When confronted about it, he originally said the restaurant told him he could have it. He eventually gave it back.
The restaurant owner told investigators that he never told Doffing he could have the corkscrew, the charges said.
Doffing also faced an internal police investigation after he used his squad car in March 2007 to hit a Wisconsin man who refused his order to stop and ran from a bar parking lot. Doffing drove after the 23-year-old man and hit him in the leg, breaking his knee.
Doffing was fired by the city but appealed. A state arbitrator found the punishment was too severe and reinstated him with back pay, except for a 30-day suspension.
Criminal charges were filed, but the case was dropped.