Testifying in Hennepin County District Court on Wednesday, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan expressed regret about how two officers were abruptly reassigned last year but said he supported the move.

Dolan said that he apologized to Lt. Andrew Smith, whom he transferred along with Sgt. Patrick King.

"I told him I did not follow my own advice and that is to slow down to make a decision," the chief said.

Dolan will resume testimony Thursday at 8:30 a.m., when he will be cross-examined by Patrick Burns, the attorney for Smith and King. It's the ninth day of the officers' trial against the city, in which they claim the transfers ruined their reputation and careers.

Dolan said that their careers were not damaged and that he still respects both officers. He denied that Smith and King were reassigned from the Violent Offender Task Force in retaliation for investigating corruption inside the department in 2007, which the two officers have alleged.

Dolan testified that on Feb. 14, 2011, he had just returned from a trip and was "pretty tired."

That morning, he met with Assistant Chief Janée Harteau and Deputy Chief Scott Gerlicher, who told him that Smith and King had provided the department with false and misleading information about task force vehicles, compensation and overtime.

Harteau and Gerlicher also told Dolan that the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI had no confidence in the officers' work.

Dolan said he immediately relieved Smith and Burns of duty so they could not return to their office, leaving time for the department to investigate their paperwork.

Dolan said he didn't want a repeat of what happened when the Metro Gang Strike Force was suspended in 2009. He noted that Strike Force officers went back to the offices and shredded and threw out documents.

But within hours, Dolan lifted the suspensions and transferred Smith, who had headed the task force, to lead the department's juvenile unit, and King, a task force supervisor, to the licensing division. He said he did so because he learned that an audit had recently been done of the Violent Offenders Task Force, and he got an explanation about the task force vehicles.

"I didn't need any more time for investigation," Dolan said.

Still, Dolan defended the transfer of Smith and King because the task force members could no longer work closely with federal prosecutors.

"I could not repair that relationship," he said.

Gerlicher testified on Tuesday that Julie Hunter, a supervising special agent with the FBI, said that Smith and King were motivated more by money and overtime than in catching violent criminals and that a supervising assistant U.S. attorney, Carol Kayser, said she could not trust Smith and King in the prosecution of cases.

Under cross-examination Wednesday by Burns, Gerlicher denied that the accusations he assembled against the two officers were based on "rumor and innuendo." Last week, Harteau defended the transfers but, pressed by Burns, agreed with him that some of what was contained in a memo critical of Smith and King was rumor and innuendo.

Smith and King maintain they have had a good relationship with many in the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI.

Randy Furst • 612-673-4224