By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis police officer who was fired for use of force will soon be returning to work.

The department fired Officer Blayne Lehner after an incident in 2014 in which he and his partner responded to a domestic disturbance call.

Two women were involved in an altercation and Lehner was accused of pushing one of the women twice and calling her a profanity.

He was fired in January after 18 years on the force, but an arbitrator has since ruled in his favor.

Arbitrator Stephen Befort reduced Lehner’s punishment from termination to a 40-hour suspension.

He’ll also receive most of his pay since he’s been terminated, minus the 40-hour suspension time.

It’s a decision that’s receiving praise from the police union, but not the police chief.

Police records show that from 2005 to the beginning of this year, Lehner has been investigated by internal affairs 28 times. The majority of cases were closed with no discipline.

Two of the cases resulted in reprimands, and two resulted in suspensions.

Lehner was also investigated for a 2012 incident where he shoved a KSTP photographer’s camera.

Joe Daly, an arbitrator who has ruled both in favor of officers and against them, says that even though Lehner has had numerous complaints, the arbitrator likely took into account commendations and awards as well.

“The arbitrator says he has had a good work performance and he’s received numerous awards,” Daly said. “That makes a difference in terms of your background and your history and determining what your outcome will be.”

Arbitrator Stephen Befort also noted that Lehner’s use of force when pushing the woman was not enough to warrant termination.

Police Federation President Bob Kroll says that Lehner is a “great cop.”

“The citizens are lucky he’s back at work,” Kroll said. “We are very happy with the outcome.”

But Chief Janee Harteau echoed a different sentiment.

In a statement, she said “I am disappointed in the arbitrator’s decision. These rulings hinder my ability, as a police chief, to create an effective culture of accountability within my department.”

Kroll said he was not sure when Lehner would be able to return to work.

It’s expected he could get somewhere around $40,000 back for the time he was terminated.

John Lauritsen