Legal arguments over whether Minneapolis officer can be drug-tested again

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 11, 2010 - 10:10 PM

City police say Jason Andersen's refusal to take a drug test was grounds for firing, but his union said the city lacked probable cause.

The fight over Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen's future with the department rests for now with Hennepin County District Judge Marilyn Kaman.

She heard arguments Friday from the Minneapolis Police Federation and the city over whether Andersen can be compelled to take another drug test as a condition of employment.

Federation lawyer Jim Michels said the "elephant in the room" is that, "All of this is just another run at trying to get rid of this guy."

Andersen, 33, has been involved in three allegedly violent incidents. Last year he was at the center of a federal civil lawsuit over his fatal shooting of 19-year-old Fong Lee in 2006. A federal jury determined he used reasonable force under the circumstances.

A federal grand jury is also investigating allegations that Andersen kicked a black juvenile twice in the head during an arrest in Crystal.

Andersen was fired in September because of a misdemeanor domestic assault charge that was later dismissed. A federal arbitrator reinstated him last month with back pay, but the city insisted he undergo a "fitness for duty" exam by a doctor.

As part of the exam, he took a blood test without first fasting, and the results were "abnormal." The doctor told the city Andersen should have to take another test.

Assistant City Attorney Trina Chernos said there's suspicion that Andersen used banned steroids.

When Andersen, at his union's direction, refused to take the second test, the city moved to fire him again. That process is on hold pending a ruling by Kaman. Andersen remains home on paid leave.

Michels said the city failed to meet requirements under a collective bargaining agreement to order the drug test. Specifically, the city didn't have two independent agents who believe they had observed Andersen under the influence while he was working or on work property, Michels said.

Kaman seemed to agree. She repeatedly asked Chernos about who the two were. Chernos said one was the doctor, and the other was Deputy Chief Scott Gerlicher, who signed the request for the test on the doctor's advice.

The judge said the two weren't independent because Gerlicher merely signed off on the doctor's request.

"There's nothing in the evidence to suggest he was under the influence," Kaman said of Andersen, who did not attend the hearing.

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747

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