A police officer who once was fired for his role in the seizure of cellphones during a raid but later reinstated has been placed in charge of all training for Minneapolis police.

David Garman was also sued by a family for his part in a raid by the city's now-defunct Metro Gang Strike Force that led to a city payout of $16,000.

Garman, a former Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Officer of the Year, is among several officers with blemished records who were recently elevated to leadership positions by interim Police Chief Amelia Huffman. Their promotions were listed in an internal e-mail circulated within the department.

"We are fortunate that MPD and our City will benefit from their commitment and faithful service," Huffman wrote in the e-mail.

But some of those officers, including Garman, were not named at a news conference Jan. 26 when Huffman announced the leadership changes.

The development comes as the department finds itself embroiled in a new controversy, the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Amir Locke during a no-knock warrant operation last week at a downtown Minneapolis apartment.

In his new role, Garman will oversee training for all incoming rookies as well as current officers. But his appointment drew harsh criticism from Communities United Against Police Brutality, a local watchdog group.

"It's a really bad idea to put a man who has engaged in problematic conduct in charge of training other officers," said Michelle Gross, the group's president.

She said she thought the department "would have learned better by now after having Derek Chauvin as a field training officer."

Chauvin was a field trainer at the time he put a knee across George Floyd's neck on May 25, 2020, resulting in Floyd's death. The former officer was convicted of murder and manslaughter in 2021 in Hennepin County District Court and sentenced to 22 ½ years in prison. He later pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Floyd's civil rights.

Huffman has indicated she is a candidate to replace former Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who retired in January after 30 years with the department. A nationwide search for his replacement is expected this year.

Gross said Huffman displayed a "lack of judgment" in making the appointments, "show[ing] that she is not the right candidate to be chief of the Minneapolis police."

Huffman declined to comment on Gross' criticism or Garman's past discipline and the payout from the Strike Force suit.

The department's command staff instead issued a statement listing the qualifications of the officers Huffman had promoted, saying they would bring "an explicit commitment to moving MPD forward to build trust with community," including the hiring of "candidates of character."

Several assignments

Huffman introduced three of the appointees at the January news conference. She left six appointees out of the announcement, including Garman and three others who appear to have run afoul of the department on several occasions.

Garman has been with the department for 24 years, serving as a health and wellness coordinator and a lieutenant leading the assault unit, and has trained other officers. He has a master's degree in psychology, is working toward a doctorate in organizational leadership and has served as an adjunct professor in the law enforcement skills program at Rasmussen College since 2009.

Garman joined the force in 1997 and was named Officer of the Year in 2007. A year later, he shot and wounded a man while working undercover as part of a robbery sting. He has since held several other positions and most recently ran the department's crisis intervention unit.

Garman was fired by then-Police Chief Tim Dolan in 2009 for his role in a case involving the Metro Gang Strike Force, a unit of metro-area officers that was shut down after revelations of misconduct, including mistreatment of people of color and officers keeping confiscated property for their personal use.

Garman's termination involved a drug house raid in which he and three other Strike Force officers found narcotics and seized at least three cellphones. A fourth Minneapolis officer on the unit involved in the case used the phones.

An internal department investigation found that Garman and two other officers had helped cover up the cellphone use, according to sources at the time.

Garman's termination was headed for arbitration in 2010 when the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis brokered a deal with the department allowing him to receive back pay for all but 30 hours of the seven months he was off MPD's rolls, according to John Delmonico, then president of the federation.

Dolan never disclosed why he rescinded Garman's termination, and Garman has been an influential figure within the Police Federation, where he has served as the union's treasurer and vice president.

He also was named in a 2009 lawsuit over the Strike Force's raid of a house in south Minneapolis after he had allegedly applied for a search warrant. According to the suit, up to 20 officers broke windows, ordered two women to the floor at gunpoint, repeatedly used expletives, destroyed personal property and damaged walls and ceilings.

Bruce Nestor, the family's attorney, said police were looking for an alleged gang member who lived in the basement and seized a digital camera and other property that was never returned. He said the city settled the suit by agreeing to pay the family $16,000.

'Problematic' behavior

Among the promotions Huffman announced last month was Robert Berry, who was named Third Precinct dogwatch lieutenant. In 2007, Berry was fired for ethical violations, including failure to notify authorities about the misconduct of another officer who was driving drunk.

Berry, who was also barhopping, was reinstated by order of an arbitrator who ruled that he had not been on duty at the time of the incident as department officials had alleged. Berry's termination was reduced to a 40 hour suspension without pay. In 2019, he was suspended for 60 hours without pay after he was cited for a code of ethics violation.

Two other officers promoted by Huffman were the subjects of lawsuits that resulted in city payouts. Michael Frye, who was appointed Fifth Precinct dogwatch lieutenant, was accused with another officer of assaulting a journalist during the 2008 Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities, resulting in a $13,500 settlement, according to Peter Nickitas, the victim's attorney.

Another appointment — Brian Sand, whom Huffman named internal affairs commander — was accused with a second officer in a lawsuit of assaulting Michael Forcia, a Native American, in 1999. The city attorney's office decided the city should pay Forcia $125,000, plus legal fees to settle his claims, and concluded a jury would likely find the officers' behavior "problematic."

Sand, who has a master's degree in public administration, is a 23-year MPD veteran and a supervisor in the internal affairs unit the department said in a statement to the Star Tribune.

The MPD said Berry and Frye were promoted under the civil service process. Asked what discretion Huffman has in making such appointments, it said the chief has the right to "skip over" eligible candidates, "but cannot do that every time."

Correction: A previous version of this story should have said that a 2017 misdemeanor domestic assault case against Minneapolis police officer Robert Berry, who was recently promoted to Third Precinct dogwatch lieutenant, was ultimately dismissed. Expunged court records reviewed by the Star Tribune show that Berry was arrested on domestic assault charges but the case was continued for dismissal, and finally dismissed in 2019.