MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis police officer has been relieved of duty after being charged with criminal civil rights violations.
The federal indictment says Officer Michael Griffin assaulted at least four people in two separate bar fights. He then filed false paperwork and lied at trial.READ MORE: Nurses Return To Work At Plymouth's WestHealth After 3-Day Strike
Griffin has been the subject of 22 internal affairs investigations, most of which were dismissed.
Court documents say that in May 2010, Griffin got into an argument with a man outside Envy nightclub in downtown Minneapolis. He’s accused of following the man, and then, according to court documents, “swung as hard as [he] could with [his] right hand,” then punched the man as hard as he could.
After he knocked the man out, investigators say he lied about being the victim, and had the man arrested.
Then in November 2011, Griffin is accused of starting a fight with four men at the Loop bar in Minneapolis. Investigators say he called fellow officers to arrest the men.
He’s also accused of slamming one man to the ground and dislocating his shoulder. Then when another man tried to intervene, witnesses say Griffin knocked him out with a punch, then sat him up and kicked him in the face.
Court documents say the man “hit the ground like a rag doll as his head bounced off the concrete.”
The City of Minneapolis has paid more than $400,000 after civil lawsuits over the same incidents.
Chief Janeé Harteau says this is hard news for the department to take. Griffin has been on the force since 2007. He is a decorated officer who Harteau gave a commendation three years ago for bravery.
Court documents say Griffin was off duty when he started fights at or near bars in downtown Minneapolis.
Prosecutors say Griffin knocked out two people, and then had them arrested for assaulting him.READ MORE: Biden Admin. Orders Study That Could Mean 20-Year Ban On Copper Mining Near BWCA
Charges against the men were dropped in both cases, and they later won or settled six-figure lawsuits with the city.
“It’s disheartening because I’m incredibly proud of, you know, the members of this department that answer almost a half a million calls for service every year and they do it well,” Harteau said.
She says identifying and addressing negative behavior will only make the department better. Harteau does not want the alleged actions of an individual to overshadow the good work done by the majority of the department.
“For every citizen that’s upset by this, so will there be officers. This is also [a] highly-decorated officer, so that’s hard for us,” she said. “I gave him a medal of commendation for his bravery in how he responded to [the] Accent Signage shooting and he deserved that — and now this.”
Griffin’s indictment comes at a time when officers across the county have been questioned for alleged brutality and the shooting deaths of several black men.
Complaints against Griffin have come from both white citizens and people of color.
There have been 22 police internal affairs investigations involving Griffin, and most claims were not upheld.
Griffin’s attorney, Ryan Kaess, released a statement Wednesday afternoon.
“My client and I are very disappointed in today’s indictment,” Kaess said. “My client steadfastly maintains his innocence of all charges.”
Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll said Wednesday afternoon he is surprised by the charges against Griffin, but says the federation is “confident he will prevail.”MORE NEWS: COVID In Minnesota: 32 Further Deaths Added To State's Toll; Positivity Lingers Above 8%
Griffin is relieved of duty and expected in court Thursday.