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KARE 11 Investigates: Nearly 150 MPD cops with misconduct history served as trainers

Nearly one-third of the Minneapolis police field trainers have been disciplined for misconduct or named in lawsuits resulting in millions of payouts

Brandon Stahl (KARE11), Lauren Leamanczyk, Steve Eckert

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Published: 4:22 PM CST February 24, 2022
Updated: 10:24 PM CST February 24, 2022

As Minneapolis faces the challenge of rebuilding its police force – hiring up to 200 new recruits – it also must decide whether rookies will continue to be trained by officers like Peter Brazeau and Alexander Brown.

The two were working an overnight shift in downtown Minneapolis in December 2016 when they ordered an intoxicated man to lay on the ground, where they handcuffed him behind his back to take him to the hospital. The man kicked at them, knocking off Brazeau’s body cam.

In response, Brazeau punched the handcuffed man in the head four times, followed with a strike by Brown. The man would still go to a hospital, but left behind a pool of blood, records show.

The beating was so severe that both officers were relieved of duty.

But the MPD not only put them back to work, the department also made them field training officers -- FTOs.

Having cops with records of misconduct train new generations of recruits is all too common for the MPD.

Of the more than 400 Minneapolis cops who have served as FTOs since 2016, nearly a third of them – like Brazeau and Brown -- have been disciplined or named in lawsuits that have cost taxpayers more than $34 million, a KARE 11 investigation has found.

Officers chosen to be field trainers should be the gold standard of their department, said Randy Shrewsberry, a former cop who founded and directs the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform.

“If there are some wrinkles in their record, especially very flagrant violations, it’s our view that that would be a disqualifier,” Shrewsberry said.

That’s not happening at the MPD.

The most well-known case of such an officer was Derek Chauvin, one of the MPD’s most prolific trainers before murdering George Floyd.

Credit: KARE
Derek Chauvin was one more than 140 MPD officers with a history of misconduct who have also served as field trainers.

Chauvin continued as an FTO even though records show in 2017 he had beaten a 14-year-old boy and held him down with a knee on his back.

But he is far from the only example.

  • Timothy Callahan was one of two officers who pinned David Smith’s face down to a YMCA floor in 2010 in a position similar to the one that killed Floyd. Smith stopped breathing. An autopsy showed he died due to “mechanical asphyxia” caused by prone restraint. 

    The MPD settled with Smith’s family for $3 million. Callahan has been a field training officer since at least 2016.

  • Before he was hired in Minneapolis, Dustin Schwarze had already been sued for excessive force when he was a cop in Richfield in 2011.

    In that case, video shows Schwarze telling the man to stay in a car or else he’d beat him. A short time later, another officer ordered the man to get out of the car. After the man refused – later saying he was confused about the orders -- the officers pulled him out and beat him. Schwarze held his taser down on the man and stunned him three different times, according to his report on the incident.

    The case that resulted $120,000 settlement.

    In 2016, he was one of the two officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jamar Clark – it was Schwarze who pulled the trigger -- which set off city-wide protests. After the Hennepin County Attorney’s office decided the use of deadly force was authorized and declined to file charges in Clark’s death, the city paid a $200,000 settlement to Clark’s family.

    Despite those payouts, Schwarze was an FTO since at least 2017, records show.

    In March 2020, he was accused of launching a flash bang grenade without warning inside a car where two men sat on the side of the road. Police were executing a warrant believing one of the men may have had drugs on him, but only a small amount of pot and K2 was found, according to police records.

    The driver of the car, Jerrod Burt, filed a lawsuit saying he suffered severe burns. A bodycam photo from the suit appeared to show Schwarze smiling after firing the flash grenade.

    The city paid Burt $170,000.

  • Officer Sherry Appledorn has a history of misconduct stretching back to 1994, having had 35 complaints filed against her resulting in her being suspended once and reprimanded twice.

    In one case, she was accused of repeatedly kicking a man in 2008 who was not resisting arrest, according to a lawsuit filed against her. It resulted in the victim getting a $125,000 settlement.

    By 2013, she also had been named with other officers in four other lawsuits. In all, the settlements totaled nearly $400,000.

    Yet despite her record, she has been one of the city’s most-used field training officers in the last five years.
Credit: KARE 11
A lawsuit accuses former MPD officer and FTO Dustin Schwarze of launching a flash bang grenade inside a car without warning, burning a man inside.

The $34 million in lawsuit payouts since 2016 would be even larger if you include the $20 million settlement paid to the family of Justine Ruszczyk. One of the officers involved in that incident was also an FTO.  

Although Ruszczyk was shot and killed by then-MPD officer Mohamed Noor, the officer driving the squad car with Noor that night was Matthew Harrity, an FTO. Ruszczyk’s death prompted the multi-million dollar settlement, but the civil lawsuit filed by her family also accused Harrity of intentionally not turning on his body camera and contriving a story about what happened in an effort to “conceal the truth” about Ruszczyk’s killing.”

MPD spokesman Garrett Parten did not respond to repeated requests for an interview with a department leader regarding the FTO program.

He also did not respond to requests speak with the FTOs highlighted in this story. Appledorn and Schwarze are no longer with the department. They could not be reached for comment.