Officials uphold Mpls. police firings tied to Green Bay fight, slurs

Minneapolis police officers
Shawn Powell, left, and Brian Thole.
Courtesy KARE11 News

The Minneapolis Civil Service Commission has upheld the firings of two police officers for what the department said was serious misconduct in a confrontation in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last year.

Brian Thole and Shawn Powell repeatedly used racial epithets and obscenities during a confrontation with a group of black men outside a Green Bay bar in the summer of 2013, according to an investigation of the June 29 incident.

• Previously: Rybak, Harteau 'appalled' by officers' conduct in Green Bay incident

The pair also made derogatory remarks about Minneapolis chief Janee Harteau, who is a lesbian, while talking about the matter with Green Bay police. Green Bay authorities said Powell used several sexual and racial slurs during other interactions with a Green Bay police officer.

Although the two Minneapolis officers were off duty and on a personal visit to Green Bay, Minneapolis started an internal affairs investigation into the incident after recordings of the pair surfaced.

Harteau fired both officers last year. They appealed to the civil service panel and got a hearing on the matter in May.

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A supervisor testified before the commission that both officers were exceptional and noted the men had taken cultural diversity training following the incident.

Thole and Powell are military veterans and were members of the department's SWAT team. Thole received several awards as an officer and was a recipient of a Bronze Star for his service in Iraq. Powell has also received several awards for his service in the police department and in the military, including an Army Good Conduct medal in 2005.

Brian Thole denies making any racist comments, but does admit making the comment about Harteau's sexuality.

Harteau said she hopes her decision to fire the officers sends a message to the public and to other officers that she won't tolerate that kind of behavior.

"We're focusing on building a culture of accountability," Harteau said Monday. "What they did that night, really has a negative impact on our building public trust."

Read the civil service commission's decision: