A Minneapolis police officer who has been on paid administrative leave since winning back his job in late 2016 was fired again this week, as was another officer, both for unspecified misconduct, according to sources.
Officers Blayne Lehner and Dustin DuPre were dismissed from the department Monday, bringing to three the number of officers fired by Chief Medaria Arradondo in the past two weeks.
Police spokesman John Elder confirmed Wednesday that DuPre started with the department in February 1998 and Lehner joined 10 months later. But Elder declined further comment, saying that policies prevented him from discussing the reasons for the officers’ dismissals. Multiple calls to Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, went unreturned on Wednesday. A spokesman for Mayor Jacob Frey declined to comment, citing ongoing internal investigations.
The officers’ dismissal followed the termination this month of officer Alexander Brown in connection with a two-year-old incident captured on surveillance video in which he and his police partner beat up a handcuffed American Indian man in downtown Minneapolis. His former partner, Peter Brazeau, is in the process of being fired, but he is entitled to a hearing before any dismissal action is taken because of his military veteran status.
Lehner’s troubles with the department have been well documented.
Former Police Chief Janeé Harteau fired Lehner in early 2016 after video emerged of him roughing up a woman in the lobby of a south Minneapolis apartment building. At the time, officials found that Lehner had failed to report the use of force in violation of department policy and had called the woman a derogatory name. But an arbitrator overturned the termination and ordered the city to rehire him, arguing that officers involved in similar situations received far less severe disciplinary measures.
Lehner eventually was handed a 40-hour suspension, which he served after returning to work in late 2016, but he never went back to work. Instead, he has been on paid leave until his firing.
Lehner was sued in federal court in 2015 by a man alleging that he was handcuffed when Lehner kicked him in the face, breaking his jaw and knocking out his front teeth during a 2012 traffic stop in south Minneapolis. Eric Hageman, the attorney for the man in that lawsuit, called Lehner’s conduct at the time “indefensible,” adding that Lehner paid out of his own pocket to settle the lawsuit.
“This should have happened years ago,” Hageman said. “The case I handled, in which Lehner kicked a handcuffed 120-pound suspected misdemeanant in the face with enough force to break his jaw and nose, knock out his two front teeth and render him unconscious — should have been enough.”
Lehner, who has been on the board for the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, has been recognized several times for his police work, including receiving the department award of merit in 2013.
DuPre also has had legal troubles since joining the force. He was arrested in 2003 for allegedly assaulting his ex-wife but pleaded to a lesser charge of interfering with a 911 call, receiving a sentence that was “specifically tailored” to exempt him from firearms restrictions — so that he could keep his gun and his job.
Dave Bicking, an outspoken local activist against police brutality, said he’s hopeful that the firing sends a clear message to city officers that misconduct won’t be tolerated.
“There may something going on here, that things are being cleaned up, but to be honest at this point, I can’t tell you,” he said by phone Wednesday. Internal discipline records obtained by Bicking’s group, Communities United Against Police Brutality, show that DuPre is the subject of an internal complaint from 2017 that remains open, he said. Two other cases against the officer were closed without discipline, according to Bicking.
The officers have the option of appealing to get their jobs back, a path that was made easier by a recent state Supreme Court ruling that overturned the firing of a Richfield officer who struck a Twin Cities teenager and failed to document it.