Mpls. Police Chief Apologizes, Calls Behavior by Suspended Cops 'Appalling'

Updated: 07/30/2013 6:50 PM By: Leslie Dyste

We have included links to the Green Bay Police Department's report so you can learn more about this story. Warning: Some of the police department's report includes graphic language.

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau is apologizing Tuesday after videotape from police squad cars and the lobby of the Green Bay police station released Monday purportedly show two off-duty Minneapolis police officers using racial and sexual slurs. The incident that has led to administrative leave for both men.

In her statement Harteau says, "What I saw and heard on the video posted on several news websites involving these two officers is appalling and goes against everything we stand for. The type of behavior exhibited on the public video significantly damages public trust. Every member of this department and community deserves better. I would also like to extend my apologies to the community and Green Bay Police Department. I am not able to comment further at this time because of data privacy laws."

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak also released a statement Tuesday on the officers' behavior. In his statement Rybak says, “I was appalled and disgusted by the behavior of two Minneapolis police officers that I saw on the video from Green Bay. The actions, language and behavior I saw in no way reflect the values of a department paid to protect and serve our community. I will await the results of the internal investigation and I am confident that Chief Harteau will take all appropriate action.”

Minneapolis Public Safety Committee Chair Don Samuels is calling on the officers to resign, calling the slurs "intolerable."

According to Green Bay Police reports, Ofc. Shawn Powell and Brian Thole created a "disturbance" at the Green Bay bar, the Sardine Can, June 29, 2013.

They "had been drinking and their judgment was impaired," one Green Bay officer wrote.

After a confrontation with two black men, either Powell or Thole used the word "n****r' to describe them and said the men "were doing their little monkey thing," racially offensive terms the Green Bay officers said they heard.

When those officers say they tried to get Powell and Thole to walk away, one disparaged the GBPD and said, "Are you kidding me? We have a lesbian f***ing chief that's looking to fire people for any reason."

According to the police report, one of the Minneapolis officers told Green Bay officers that it was his first amendment right to say whatever he wants and that he could not be charged for calling someone a 'n****r.'

According to the report, one of the Minneapolis officers later told one of the Green Bay authorities to apologize to the officers involved for him. 

Both officers are named in ongoing federal lawsuits that accuse them of civil rights violations.

Both are military veterans who have also been honored with department awards and praised for their service.

Powell was involved in the videotaped beating of Derryl Jenkins that led to a $235,000 dollar settlement and use-of-force changes for all officers. Powell was never disciplined in that case, according to the copy of his personnel file released to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Powell was also involved in the death of a suspect in a 2009 stolen vehicle chase. That incident led to a still-open wrongful death lawsuit.

In his file, a document recommended him for a Medal of Commendation for that critical incident, for putting himself "in harms way to protect the life of another officer." A supervisor wrote, "great job!" on the document.

The shooting was ruled justified. In a self-evaluation in 2006, Powell rated himself "very good" in cross-cultural communications.

Thole's personnel file shows his only discipline is a 2010 DWI arrest. The department suspended him for 10 hours without pay for violating the department's ethics code.

Thole was the "SWAT Officer of the Month" twice, honored for his "dependability, dedication and overall performance."

We haven't been able to reach either officer for comment about this case.

On Tuesday, several community leaders began expressing their own outrage at the incident.

"You've had this climate for years -- the language that they use when it pertains to members of the African-American community," said Pastor Jerry McAfee, with the New Salem Missionary Baptist Church.
McAfee used to sit on the now-defunct Civilian Police Review Authority in Minneapolis, and said he's concerned that no matter the punishment, this kind of conduct will continue.
"This behavior has never been checked nor challenged, and I guarantee you, it's more widespread than those two," McAfee said.