Minneapolis police officer indicted for criminal civil rights violations, perjury

Michael Griffin, a Minneapolis police officer, has pleaded not guilty to a nine-count federal indictment charging him with perjury, deprivation of civil rights and falsification of records.

According to the indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Griffin, who was off duty, punched someone outside of Envy Nightclub until the individual was unconscious on May 29, 2010 and later lied in a police report claiming that the individual tried to attack him first. That individual (identified as I.R. in the indictment) was charged with assaulting a police officer, but charges were later dismissed by the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office.

In a separate incident on Nov. 5, 2011, Griffin confronted four men at The Loop Bar in the North Loop and threatened to have them thrown out of the bar. Griffin, off duty at the time, had a bar bouncer kick the men out of the bar.

Griffin then contacted his police partner, identified as Officer W.G., who arrived and took one of the men into custody in his squad car. Later Griffin kicked one of the men in the chest and knocked him to the ground, and then went on to punch another man in the head from behind and knocked him unconscious, according to the indictment.

After other Minneapolis police officers arrived on the scene, Griffin made a false police report that resulted with one of the men who was assaulted getting arrested for obstructing a police officer with force, according to the indictment. Those charges were later dismissed.

On Feb. 28, 2012, three of the men filed a civil lawsuit against Griffin, Officer W.G. and the City of Minneapolis alleging Griffin used excessive force against them. The individual involved in the Envy incident also filed a similar lawsuit.

The federal indictment accuses Griffin of lying in civil depositions taken in connection with the lawsuits.

 “Police officers cannot use their shield as a weapon against innocent civilians,” said U.S. Attorney Luger in a prepared statement. “This defendant is charged with assaulting at least four people in his capacity as an off-duty officer, filing false paperwork and lying multiple times while under oath. Minneapolis is well served by the many hard-working and honest officers of the Minneapolis Police Department and I am proud of the close working relationship between the Department and my Office to address violent crime in the city. At the same time, we will not stand for those who abuse their badge and the public’s trust.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said she has and will continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s office on any requests related to Griffin’s indictment.

“Generally speaking, identifying and addressing negative behavior will only make us a better Department. It should not negate the good work being done by just about every member of this department every day,” she said in a statement. “The issues of year’s past should not, and will not, define who we currently are as a Department. I assure you we are progressively moving forward as a national leader in many areas, including ‘Fair and Impartial Policing’ training for our officers.”

She added that she’s working on implementing the Department of Justice’s recommendations on improving the Police Department’s oversight process, including developing an early intervention system for officers.

“I have been swift and decisive with discipline and termination issues. Incidents from years ago will unfortunately affect this department and as Chief, I will continue to show the same determination and leadership to bring accountability to the MPD,” she said. “What you will see in the future will be the result of the changes and actions we’re taking today.”