Checkered past won’t slow 3 MPD officers’ workers comp claims

Three Minneapolis city council members tried and failed Monday to deny workers comp claims from police officers with a checkered past.

Their votes came about two months after the city council rejected one of the relatively routine settlements for the first time.

A history of dishonesty is the reason some council members want to dig deeper before signing off on six-figure PTSD settlements for former police officers.

Since one of their own murdered George Floyd three years ago, a FOX 9 Investigators analysis showed more than 150 Minneapolis police officers have taken workers compensation settlements for post-traumatic stress.

City council approved every suggested settlement until denying Andrew Bittel’s in October.

On Monday, four new settlements landed on the city council's Policy and Government Oversight committee agenda.

"Some of the officers that have been considered with these claims have documented problematic histories," said Ward 2 Councilmember Robin Wonsley.

"I think when we see that track record of dishonesty, that's when it makes it hard to, I think, to support these," said Ward 5 Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison.

The committee approved one settlement but was torn on how to handle those for Logan Johansson, Andrew Braun, and Peter Brazeau.

Each of them garnered negative attention before making their PTSD claims. Johansson torched files at the Third Precinct on the night it burned. Braun allegedly shot a journalist with a rubber bullet during the unrest after Floyd’s death, resulting in her losing an eye and receiving. She settled her claims with the city for $600,000. And Brazeau was fired for punching a handcuffed man but was later reinstated. Ultimately, none of this history changes anything about their settlements.

"Past misconduct is not relevant to either the evaluation or the course, the legal course of a worker's compensation claim," said deputy city attorney Erik Nilsson.

Councilmember Wonsley said integrity matters in workers compensation calculations, so in certain cases, she wants more assurances that the system isn’t being abused.

"Until serious conversations and safeguards are implemented and how the city approves these worker comp claims, I will not and cannot support them," she said.

The committee failed to deny those claims on a 3-3 vote.

Instead, it voted 4-2 to send the claims to the full council with no recommendation.

Past MPD settlements

Since May 2020, at least 155 officers have received worker’s compensation settlements, many of which have had questionable histories of misconduct.

Of the 155 MPD officers analyzed, at least 95% of them had some form of misconduct claim filed against them. About 12% of those officers were disciplined by MPD brass.

But in October, the Minneapolis City Council voted to reject the workers’ compensation claim made by Minneapolis police officer Andrew Bittel in a 4-1 vote — signaling it could begin scrutinizing the claims further. Sgt. Bittell was one of the officers present during the beating and arrest of Jaleel Stallings during the unrest following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Stallings eventually reached a $1.5 million settlement with the City of Minneapolis.

In October, Minneapolis officials told FOX 9 that since June 1, 2020, MPD employees had filed 864 workers' compensation claims for work-related injuries and illnesses. The figure included multiple claims by some employees who sustained more than one work-related injury or illness.

To date, the city has paid $33,825,505.90 in claims, which includes wage replacement, medical payments, settlements, and other claim-associated expenses.