Minneapolis officer ordered back on the job after firing for punching handcuffed man

Police respond to fatal shooting
Minneapolis police in October 2015.
Courtesy of Minneapolis Police Department 2015

A Minneapolis police officer who was fired after he punched a handcuffed man in his face several times has been given his job back. Officer Peter Brazeau was fired earlier this year for using excessive force. But an arbitrator, citing mitigating factors, reduced Brazeau’s termination to an 80-hour suspension without pay.

In December 2016, officers Brazeau and Alexander Brown struggled with a man in downtown Minneapolis. According to the arbitrator’s report, the officers were trying to put the unnamed man in “protective custody” and take him to the hospital. Brazeau told his supervisor that the man was intoxicated and trying to “start fights with people.”

At first, the man was cooperative, said Brazeau. But the man became combative once he was in cuffs. The report says Brazeau told supervisors that as the man was cuffed and on his back, he kicked Brazeau in the chest, knocking the wind out of the officer and the body-worn camera off his uniform.

“Then, I placed my knee on his chest and delivered three to four strikes to his face,” said Brazeau.

Officer Brown also struck the man in his face while the two tried to get him under control, reads the report.

The report says medical responders administered ketamine, a powerful sedative, to calm the man down. The use of the drug by medical responders on people in police custody would later spark controversy. In a 2018 study, the city’s police conduct review office found eight instances in which officers gave an opinion or asked EMS employees to inject ketamine into people.

The man was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and a broken nose, but he left before being discharged. The report says doctors were not able to determine “or suggest” how the man received the injuries. Brazeau had reported that the man had blood on his face and hands before he and his partner took the man into custody.

According to the report, Chief Medaria Arradondo sacked Brazeau telling him in a departmental communication, “your actions were unwarranted and unacceptable.”

Labor arbitrator Sherwood Malamud found the termination to be excessive punishment for an officer given multiple departmental awards. Malamud added that Brazeau’s work in the First Precinct “at a job performance level of exceeds expectations, serves as mitigating factors which make the imposition of the discharge penalty inappropriate.”

State law allows Brazeau to challenge a termination through a “veteran’s preference” process. He received an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps after twice being deployed to serve in Iraq. He joined the Minneapolis Police Department in 2013.

Malamud also directed the Minneapolis police department to retrain Brazeau on a few different aspects of handcuffing, including “how to address continued resistance by a handcuffed individual due to their level of intoxication or mental impairment.”

Police spokesperson John Elder said Brazeau is not yet back on the job.

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