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The photo of Officer Adam Huot shoveling a Duluth resident's steps was meant to highlight "#DuluthsFinest," as the police department's Facebook post says. Instead, it led to a steady stream of questions and criticism.

The Duluth Police Department shared the image on Dec. 13, saying Huot "went above and beyond" after a medical call. Noticing the homeowner's sidewalk and steps were covered in snow, the officer picked up a shovel and cleared the walkway.

"Officer Huot followed through with the Duluth Police Department's mission statement by serving in a selfless and caring manner," the police department wrote, concluding the post with the above-mentioned hashtag.

Many replies were supportive. But the comments section was quickly peppered with questions about the officer's past. Questions like this: Is that the same Adam Huot who was fired for excessive force after being caught on camera dragging a man through the skyways, at one point causing the man's head to hit a steel door frame? Only to be reinstated by an appeals court decision years later?

You can see the video here, via the Duluth News Tribune.

The Duluth Police Department responded to the questions and criticism Wednesday — confirming that yes, it is the same officer Huot, but defending his return to the patrol as a sign of his significant personal growth.

“The Duluth Police Department recognizes Officer Huot’s actions in May 2017 were unacceptable and betrayed the community’s trust,” said Chief Mike Tusken in a statement. “Upon his reinstatement to the department, Officer Huot was presented with clear expectations to regain the public’s trust by being kind, caring, and compassionate in his service to the community."

Huot had been with the department for nine years before the high-profile skyway incident. After the video emerged he was placed on leave without pay, then terminated. But in November of 2019, an arbitrator ruled the punishment was too severe for the infraction.

The court ordered he return to work, with back pay, and the police department said it gave Huot an administrative role. In September 2020, he moved to the Financial Crimes Unit, and earlier this month was reassigned to patrol duty, after Tusken said he'd observed "personal and professional growth" from the officer.

Huot also offered a comment in the department's release.

"I think it is important to acknowledge that what happened in May 2017 is my own failure," he said. "I didn’t show up to work that day and give the City of Duluth, the community, or my Duluth Police partners the best version of myself. I did not give Mr. Houle [the man dragged] the patience or empathy he deserved and I failed to see the impact of my actions prior to my split-second decision.” 

Since then, Huot said, he's been able to reflect and "realign my values and perspectives," noting he has since gone back to school and obtained a Masters of Social Work since the skyway incident. This new education included techniques for therapy and counseling, as well as social justice and community mental health courses, all of which helped him "consider all perspectives and to arrive into any situation with empathy and understanding," he said. 

"I returned to the Duluth Police Department a much better person than when I left it," Huot continued. "I hold the negative impacts I have created close to me as a reminder that I can do better. I have worked tirelessly, and will tenaciously continue to support and implement initiatives for positive change surrounding wellness, mental health stigma, and physical wellbeing.”

Houle, court documents say, did not sustain "meaningful" physical injury as a result of the dragging.

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