Two Minneapolis police officers who were cleared of criminal wrongdoing in the December 2016 beating of a handcuffed suspect during an arrest could still face disciplinary action for violating department rules on use of force, officials said.

The officers, Peter Brazeau and Alexander Brown, have since returned to work, but a review board earlier this year recommended that the pair be reprimanded for their actions, according to two sources familiar with the case. The case has been forwarded to Chief Medaria Arradondo, who has final say about whether discipline is due.

The case came to the attention of internal affairs investigators after someone lodged an internal complaint against the two officers, the sources say. Because of a conflict of interest, the case was turned over to St. Paul prosecutors, who declined to charge the two officers in early 2017, sources said.

According to a police report, Brazeau and Brown encountered the man shortly after bar-close time near where Nicollet Mall meets S. 4th Street and tried to arrest him for disorderly conduct. But after he was handcuffed, the man grew combative and kicked Brazeau in the chest — the blow was hard enough to dislodge the officer's body camera, sources say. The officers then began hitting and kicking the man, who was handcuffed and lying on the ground, according to the sources.

The man, who was 37 at the time of the incident, was later hospitalized with unspecified injuries, the police report said.

No record of charges against the man could be found in the Hennepin County courts database. Therefore, the Star Tribune is not naming him.

Based on the information, prosecutors declined to press criminal charges against the officers, but a department review board, made up of police and civilian representatives, determined that their conduct was unbecoming and recommended that they be disciplined.

In an earlier incident that sources said was similar, officer Christopher Reiter was charged and later convicted of assault for kicking a subdued suspect in the face. A video of that incident, released before Reiter's trial, clearly showed the officer kicking the suspect, who appeared not to be resisting. Reiter was later fired.

Lt. Bob Kroll, the Minneapolis police union president, said that the two cases are nothing alike, and that Brazeau was only defending himself after the suspect kicked him in the chest.

"Just because you're in handcuffs doesn't mean that you can't hurt an officer," Kroll said, adding that the officers had previously encountered the man, who was acting belligerently throughout the night. "[The officers] met force with force."

The pair have long since returned to the streets after being put on desk duty after the incident, he said. Both have been decorated for their police work in the past.

The Police Department confirmed that the matter had been forwarded to Arradondo's office, but declined to comment further.

A voice mail left for the St. Paul City Attorney's office went unreturned.

Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter:@StribJany