Mankato’s public safety director will have his peace officer license suspended for five days after a state board found problems with his department’s training and documenting of a dozen new part-time officers.
Todd Miller signed a settlement agreement Thursday with the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) following its investigation into his department. It calls for a 10-day suspension, half of which will be stayed for five years if Miller follows licensing rules during that time.
Among the board’s findings: The 12 new officers were not trained in police pursuit or emergency vehicle operations before taking their licensing exams. But “it is undisputed” that the officers got that training before operating an emergency vehicle, the settlement says.
By phone Friday, Miller said the document proves his department’s mistakes were “clerical, process or timing issues” — in one case using an equivalent, but incorrect, form. “There’s nothing intentional. There is no misrepresentation,” he said, later adding: “The intent was always to work with the POST board … to meet the law.”
But the head of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association is calling for Miller’s resignation. “It is outrageous that the person who is a director of a police department would violate any rules of the licensing board,” said Executive Director Dennis Flaherty. “This is a black mark on the city of Mankato and their police department.”
Counting Miller, 13 chiefs have been suspended in Minnesota over the past decade, according to data from thePOST board. Most of those suspensions lasted one to three days, and most were stayed. Just three other chiefs were suspended for 10 days or longer, the data show.
The board’s executive director, Nathan Gove, declined to comment on Miller’s case. “The Data Practices Act prevents the board from comment beyond what is contained in the settlement agreement,” he said in a statement, “but will let the remedy contained in the agreement with Director Miller speak for itself.”
Change in state law
Miller brought in the new part-time officers in a hurry.
Minnesota legislators had passed a bill in 2014 to stop issuing new part-time peace office licenses — which require less training and no two-year degree — after June 30. Part-time officers who got that lesser license before that can keep working “indefinitely,” the law says, but cannot switch to another agency.
So Mankato, which uses more part-time officers than any other Minnesota city, started moving a dozen applicants through “hundreds of hours” of curriculum, firearms training and first-responder education, Miller said. “We had to compress this into two months.”
The department failed to maintain written documentation of the firearms training course, the settlement with the POST board says. (The training was videotaped, Miller said.)
None of the 12 applicants filled out a written application for employment with the department. (Nine of the 12 were city employees who had already filled out applications for full-time employment, the settlement notes.) And the department did not give the POST board written notices of background investigation. (“The department, did, however, provide notice of initiation of a background investigation …” the settlement continues.)
The 12 applicants passed the exam by the deadline.
Miller’s five-day suspension, to take place in August, will prevent him from acting as a peace officer, doing things such as making arrests. It will not stop him working as director, Miller said.
The city has not disciplined Miller. In a statement, City Manager Patrick Hentges said that the department has improved its record-keeping and training protocols. The board’s investigating committee “voluntarily dropped many of the initial allegations against Director Miller,” he said, “including a claim that the department misrepresented the training provided to the 12 part-time officers on their applications.”
“The serious nature” of those allegations merited hiring a law firm, he said. The city spent $36,000 on attorneys’ fees and costs.
Hentges also suggested that the initial complaint was sparked by “a hotly contested political debate over the value of part-time peace officers in Minnesota.”
But Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, the legislation’s chief author, called that suggestion “basically a farce.”
The complaint came from “the line officers of the Mankato police,” he said, who asked for Cornish’s advice. “It was their idea, their complaint, and they furnished the information.”
Cornish, a longtime peace officer, said that the infractions are more significant than the city’s response suggests. “It’s a serious violation,” he said.