The Minneapolis Police Federation has a string of wins in getting terminations reversed by arbitrators — six out of eight since 2006, according to NBC News.
In a letter to members, the union’s president signaled that he was working to get the officers reinstated. All four ex-cops are also facing criminal charges, including murder.
“They were fired without due process,” wrote the president, Lt. Bob Kroll.
The union didn’t respond to a request about what the stance is now on the officers.
Of the eight firings, arbitrators dismissed two and reinstated six, according to an NBC review of Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services records.
Three of the reinstatements stand out: One cop punched a handcuffed man in the face several times, breaking his nose. Another pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a fight with his wife. And a third was fired, reinstated, fired again — for allegedly kicking a teenager in the head — and reinstated again.
“That case might be more egregious than most, but it’s not at all far-fetched in the world of law enforcement labor,” said Andy Skoogman, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association. “It’s maddening, and the general public should be outraged.”
For criminal justice experts, arbitration plays an outsized role in keeping officers accused of serious misconduct.
“I would say this is one of the most important accountability issues,” said Stephen Rushin, a Loyola University Chicago law professor who published a study on arbitration in 2018. “If you can’t remove bad officers, it’s going to be really hard to improve a police organization.”
The Minneapolis police union estimated that only a couple of cases a year go to arbitration and pointed out that research shows arbitrators uphold police firings at about the same rate — roughly 50% — as other types of public employees.
For Skoogman, those statistics drive home point that the system is flawed.
“Imagine running any business and you have to allow 50% of the people you’ve fired to come back in and work in your business,” he said. “It sends the completely wrong message that you can do whatever you want and you’re not going to get fired.”
Dave Bicking, a former member of the Minneapolis civilian police review board, believes “it’s very likely” the officers would be reinstated if the union opts to defend them, but the opportunity may never come depending on what happens in court.
“The question is, will they be convicted?” he said.