Duluth officials said Friday they plan to appeal an arbitrator's ruling that overturned the firing of a police officer who is seen on police body camera video dragging a handcuffed man through a downtown skywalk in 2017.
Officer Adam Huot, who had been suspended for a prior excessive use of force violation, was fired for dragging the man 90 feet. The man, whom officers had ticketed for trespassing, hit his head on a steel door while he was being dragged, Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken said during a Friday morning press conference.
At one point on the video, an officer can be heard saying: "Pick him up and help him."
Tusken said: "It is the Duluth Police Department's expectation that officers will make tactically sound, reasonable use of force decisions which demonstrate our value of every life."
Officer did not check on handcuffed man
The incident stemmed from two 911 calls on May 20, 2017, to report two drunk men who appeared to be trespassing. They were asked to leave and did during the first encounter with the officers.
About 25 minutes later Huot, another officer, and a police recruit in training were called to the Technology Village parking ramp, 14 E. First St., on a report of two drunk men, Tusken said.
The officers told the men they were going to be ticketed for trespassing and those would be mailed. At that point, the chief said, one man started yelling and "demanded to be arrested."
The officers handcuffed the man, who then laid down on the skywalk floor "to do passive resistance," Tusken said.
The man was handcuffed behind his back and Huot grabbed the chain of the cuffs and dragged him, Tusken recounted.
"Officer Huot did not immediately check the citizen for injuries. Nor inquire about him," the chief said.
"The passive resistance offered by this citizen did not justify this use of force," Tusken added. "It is the Duluth Police Department's expectation that officers will make tactically sound, reasonable use of force decisions which demonstrate our value of every life."
Another officer who saw the incident reported the use of force to his lieutenant. Huot was placed on routine paid administrative leave.
The case was investigated and went through arbitration, which ruled that the officer should retain employment.
However, the city disagreed and is appealing the ruling to District Court.
In a written statement, the city said that despite the arbitrator's finding that Huot's use of force was unreasonable and violated police department policies, he ruled to reinstate the Huot without back pay and give Huot one final chance.
Huot, a nine-year veteran, is on unpaid leave. He remains a city employee.
City will appeal arbitrator's decision
The city said in its statement it maintains Huot's termination was appropriate.
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said she supported the decision to fire Huot.
"The City of Duluth and its Police Department prides itself on serving our community selflessly, with respect and dignity toward all members of our community," she said in the statement.
"As Chief Tusken has said numerous times, the power and authority our officers have do not come from a gun or a badge, or even from the City of Duluth; it comes from a foundation of strong community relationships."
Neither Huot nor the police union, which filed a grievance related to Huot's firing, could be immediately reached for comment.
Tusken publicly released the police body camera video Friday.