Civilians on the advisory police commission have stepped down and blasted a February decision to put its police chief and a sergeant on paid administrative leave.
All three civilians on the Rogers police commission have now resigned in protest of the city's February decision to put its police chief and a sergeant on paid administrative leave.
The fast-growing city of 7,500 in northwestern Hennepin County has a police force of 14, and three are on paid leave.
The commission resignations have added upheaval and some embarrassment in the city, dating to a string of events that began last summer.
"It reeks of politics," Lorin Kramer, one of the former commissioners, said of the actions taken with the chief and sergeant. "I urge the Rogers City Council to do the right thing and stop this train wreck in the making."
City Hall has remained mum on why Chief Jeff Luther and Sgt. Joleen Pitts were put on leave Feb. 10; officials cite privacy concerns and personnel policies.
However, Kramer and others contend that the chief is being unjustly punished for investigating an officer's conduct at the scene of an accident last summer. That officer, Capt. Mike Miller, is godfather to the mayor's daughter and is now serving as acting police chief.
Rogers Mayor Jason Grimm said he did not foresee the resignations, and the City Council has not discussed what to do next.
"In the short term, there will be no decision on the police commission," Grimm said.
He also declined to comment on any aspect of the Luther and Pitts cases.
"I don't want to act like I'm avoiding this, but I'm being bound by our attorneys not to talk at all," he said.
The five-member police commission discusses police department policy and procedures. It also reviews budget needs and makes recommendations to the City Council. Its civilian members are appointed by the council and the mayor, who also serves on the commission. The fifth member is the police chief; Luther's leave has sidelined him.
Kramer, with a 40-year career in law enforcement, read a statement to the council March 22 saying he was resigning immediately because of the city's "deplorable" actions. He said the city was launching a "preemptive strike" at Luther and was trying to discredit the chief and Pitts "before they can bring discipline to bear against other department members."
He was referring to an incident last summer in which officer Mike Hayen moved his squad car into the path of a speeding motorcycle, causing a crash, according to a witness. Neither Hayen nor Miller, who was chasing the cyclist, mentioned such a movement in their reports. The motorcyclist, who later pleaded guilty in the chase, injured a knee but refused treatment at the scene.
The squad car's movement, if it occurred, is significant, because it would violate state rules against police using deadly force except in extraordinary, life-threatening circumstances. The two officers' reports also did not mention that an eyewitness at the scene offered to make a statement about what happened but was not interviewed.
After Luther heard about the witness a few weeks later and looked into the matter, the city hired an independent investigator. After the council received the results, which were not made public, Hayen was put on paid administrative leave and a second investigation began.
Miller was not put on paid leave. His private attorney said that Miller has been cleared of any misconduct and has an outstanding reputation as a police officer. Miller has said he does not want to be the permanent police chief in Rogers.
Expense to taxpayers
Another police commissioner, Chris Larrabee, also read a statement to the Rogers council March 22 announcing his immediate resignation. Larrabee said that Luther's 30-year career in law enforcement is "flawless," and that Pitts has proven herself in her 20-year career to be "a true professional with high moral and professional standards."
Larrabee, a police officer in Champlin with 20 years of experience, said that the Rogers council used "questionable allegations" to put Luther and Pitts on leave, and that the decision is also costing taxpayers $12,000 per month plus benefits. "I will not support a city and its government that treats their employees as Chief Luther and Sgt. Pitts have been treated," he said.
The chairman of the police commission, Scott Adams, resigned Feb. 22 because of what he called "corruption" in City Hall.
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