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Court: Richfield Police Department right to fire officer for slapping teenager

The officer's actions were caught on video and shared on social media.
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A police department was right to fire an officer who was seen on a viral video slapping and pushing a Somali teenager, a Minnesota court has ruled.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled on Monday in favor of the City of Richfield, which had fired Officer Nate Kinsey in 2016 not long after a video showing him pushing and hitting Kamal Gelle was shared on social media.

Kinsey and Zelle were swearing at each other as they discussed Kinsey giving the then 19 year old a driving ticket. The officer had been called to a report of "more than 50 Somalis" gathered in Adams Hill Park who were "driving crazy on the roads."

Kinsey then pushed Zelle in the back, before slapping him in the back of the head and pushing him again, before saying: "Do you all want to go? I'll f--- every one of you f---ers up, move along we're working here."

After firing him, the city had been ordered to rehire Kinsey by a Hennepin County District Judge last year, which had agreed with a labor arbitrator's decision that the officer should get his job back.

But Richfield challenged that decision, and the Court of Appeals agreed that Kinsey's use of force was beyond the department's standards, saying:

"To prevent the use of excessive physical force by the police, there is a clear public policy in favor of transparency and proper reporting on the use of force. An arbitrator's decision to reinstate a police officer who was terminated by his municipal employer violates that public policy and will not be enforced where the police officer failed to report his use of force in violation of the employer's policy and had been previously disciplined, trained, and counseled for failing to report prior instances of the use of force."

The Star Tribune describes the decision as a "stunning loss" for Law Enforcement Labor Services Inc., Minnesota's largest police union.

It notes that it's rare for employers to challenge the decision of labor arbitrators, and even rarer for the appeals court to overrule an arbitrator's decision relating to a police officer.

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