Minneapolis police officer indicted, accused of assault in off-duty bar incidents

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When Minneapolis Police Officer Michael Griffin appears in a U.S. District Court on Thursday, he'll be in the defendant's chair – and will answer to a long list of charges that include violating civil rights, use of excessive force and perjury.

According to a statement  from U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger, Griffin is charged with abusing his police powers in two separate incidents involving altercations at downtown Minneapolis bars.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said in a statement she will "continue to cooperate with [the U.S. Attorney's] office on any requests related to today’s indictment,” while noting officers respond to more than 450,000 calls annually – most without a negative incident.

"It should not negate the good work being done by just about every member of this department every day,” she said.

During the first incident in 2010, officials say the off-duty Griffin knocked a man unconscious after intimidating him at the Aqua nightclub, even though the man had apparently tried to leave the scene and did not physically provoke his attacker.

Prosecutors say Griffin enlisted the aid of two nearby Minneapolis police officers, who arrested the victim at Griffin's urging.

The man was charged with assaulting a police officer, but the case was later dropped.

Griffin is also charged in a 2011 incident at The Loop, a bar from which he reportedly had four men ejected after a "verbal confrontation." Griffin thereafter called in his off-duty but still uniformed partner to take two of the men into custody, after throwing one of them to the ground.

From there, the men were taken to another area and severely beaten, the charges say.

Like the victim in the first incident, one of the men was initially charged over the altercation but later cleared.

Griffin is also accused of perjury for "filing false paperwork" and lying under oath when testifying about the episodes.

The officer has a history of abuse allegations, MPR News notes. The network says that the cop was "already at the center of two lawsuits" that cost Minneapolis $400,000. According to the Star Tribune, Griffin's behavior has made him the subject of 22 internal affairs investigations.

"Police officers cannot use their shield as a weapon against innocent civilians," U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger said. "Minneapolis is well served by the many hard-working and honest officers ... at the same time, we will not stand for those who abuse their badge and the public’s trust."

Said Harteau: “The issues of year’s past should not, and will not, define who we currently are as a Department. I assure you we are progressively moving forward as a national leader in many areas, including ‘Fair and Impartial Policing’ training for our officers.”

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