An arbitrator has ordered the city of Minneapolis to give a former cop his job back.
According to arbitration documents, the city fired Officer Blayne Lehner "without just cause," even though the city argues Lehner violated the department's use of force policies.
Why Lehner lost his job
Arbitration documents say Lehner – who'd been working as a Minneapolis police officer since 1998 – responded to an apartment building on a domestic disturbance call.
According to the documents:
When Lehner and his partner arrived, they found two women yelling at each other.
The officers separated the women, with Lehner bringing a woman he described as "out of control" and "intoxicated" out to the hallway.
At one point, she tried to push past Lehner. That's when a witness claimed she heard the officer call the woman a vulgar name.
Meanwhile, the other woman packed her things and left the apartment.
Eventually, Lehner brought the woman he had been watching back into the apartment and asked her to stay there. However, when the officers made it to the building's exit, the woman followed.
Video footage reportedly shows Lehner pushing the woman, causing her to stumble backwards and fall over some hallway steps.
The footage isn't clear, but the city argued that Lehner grabbed the woman by the throat. However, he and the police union – the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis – say he swatted the woman's phone out of her hand after she refused to comply with orders. The woman then grabbed Lehner's hand, and he responded by pushing her to the ground.
The Office of Police Conduct Review later decided Lehner had committed three policy violations: Use of force, not reporting the incident correctly, and using inappropriate language.
He was placed on administrative leave in Sept. 2015 and terminated in Jan. 2016.
What happens now?
The arbitration documents say that instead of being fired, Lehner should serve be suspended for 40 hours without pay. He's also to be paid back for some of the time he missed.
Union president Lt. Bob Kroll told WCCO they're "very happy with the outcome.” And that “the citizens are lucky he’s back at work.”
However, KARE 11 reports Police Chief Janee Harteau was disappointed with the decision.
“These rulings hinder my ability, as a Police Chief, to create an effective culture of accountability within the Department,” Harteau said in a statement.
A spokesperson for the Minneapolis Police Department told the Star Tribune they haven't decided exactly when Lehner will be back at work or what job he'll be taking.