Rogers, Minnesota police officers Mike Miller and Mike Hayen are under investigation after an incident last July in which Hayen allegedly used potentially deadly force against a motorcyclist who was fleeing as Miller was pursuing him for speeding. A witness reported seeing Hayen pull his squad car into the road at the last minute to block the motorcyclist as he was riding at a high rate of speed, causing the motorcyclist to crash. The witness says he attempted to report what he saw but neither Hayen nor Miller took a statement from him or ever called him back. Their report doesn't mention Hayen moving his car into the motorcyclist's path, or the presence of the witness.
We know all of this because a month later, the witness casually mentioned the incident to Sgt. Joleen Pitts at a police department open house. Alarmed, Pitts relayed the story to Rogers Police Chief Jeff Luther. Luther interviewed the witness, then opened an investigation into Hayen and Miller. In January, Luther testified at a closed city council meeting, where he argued that Hayen and Miller should be fired. Hayen was put on administrative leave, but the city took no further action.
Against Hayen or Miller, that is. A month later, the city did put Luther and Pitts on administrative leave, for "undisclosed reasons".
The city's actions floored Diane Karnitz, a Brooklyn Park detective who has known Luther and Pitts for much of their careers.
"There's nobody that has more integrity than either of them as far as I'm concerned," she said. Others in law enforcement who know them "are just shaking their heads and knowing that this is an injustice, and amazed that something like that can happen in 2011."
The previous Rogers City Council recruited Luther in late 2008 after he left a long unblemished BCA career, said Mike Murphy, operations supervisor at North Memorial Ambulance who has known Luther for 35 years.
"They were looking for a chief that would break away from small-town, good-old-boy, pat-on-the-back philosophy of the past" and run the department more professionally, he said.
Pitts has a 20-year career with a "spotless disciplinary history," said her attorney, Chris Wachtler. She worked on Champlin's force before joining the Rogers department in 2005. Last year she received a meritorious award for successfully dealing with a suicidal person without any use of force.
Three former City Council members who hired Luther say charges against him and Pitts are "trumped up" and retaliation for "doing the right thing" in investigating Hayen and Miller…
Here's the kicker: Miller is godfather to the daughter of Rogers Mayor Jason Grimm.
Oh wait. Hang on a sec. That's not the kicker. Here's the kicker: While Luther is on suspension, Miller has been named acting police chief.
More on the appalling lack of protection for police whistle blowers here.