Over at Cato’s Police Misconduct web site we have selected the worst case for the month of October. It goes to the City of Minneapolis for its handling of an excessive force complaint against Officer Blayne Lehner.
Here’s the background: Lehner and his partner responded to domestic disturbance call at an apartment building where they found two women arguing with one another. According to the news reports, the encounter was captured on video. The owner of the apartment building was so disturbed by what he saw – Lehner pushing one of the women without cause – that he filed a complaint with the department.
Later, Police Chief Janee Harteau agrees that Lehner’s conduct was unacceptable. The Chief terminates Lehner’s employment with the police department.
Only now a labor arbitrator has overturned that employment decision and has ordered the city to reinstate Lehner along with compensation for the time he has been off the force.
News reports also show that Lehner has been the subject of previous complaints and lawsuits:
City records show that since 2000, more than 30 complaint investigations have been opened against Lehner. The vast majority of investigations were closed with no discipline. One case from 2014 with the Office of Police Conduct Review is still open. Records show Lehner was suspended twice in 2013. However, the reasons for the discipline were not listed. Lehner was also issued two letters of reprimand in 2012.
In 2015, Lehner was sued by a man who claimed the officer kicked him in the face, breaking a few of his teeth and causing him to briefly lose consciousness. In a rare move, the city decided not to defend Lehner. However, the city later settled the case for $360,000.
Officer Lehner will soon be back to policing again.