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Duluth cop faces more questions of improper conduct

DULUTH - A Duluth police officer, acquitted of a sexual assault charge in 2003 and also disciplined after a complaint of inappropriately searching a female three years before that, is being investigated for another complaint by a woman.

Dean Symens, 38, an investigator in the Violent Crimes Unit, has been a member of the force since 1995.

"I can't comment on elements of the investigation at this time," Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said Tuesday. He declined further comment.

Symens, the married father of two children, couldn't be reached for comment. He's the subject of two complaints that are being investigated by the police department.

In the 2003 case, Symens was accused of sexually assaulting a 21-year-old mentally ill woman in a Lincoln Park apartment. He had been working as a Lincoln Park School liaison officer on Jan. 2, 2003, when he helped with the custody transfer of an 11-year-old girl from the alleged sexual assault victim's home. The alleged victim said Symens came back the next day and again five days later, when the alleged assault took place.

A St. Louis County jury deliberated about 2½ hours before finding Symens not guilty of all charges against him.

Earlier, in February 2000, a Hermantown woman told police that she was driving out of the Fitger's Brewery Complex parking ramp when Symens walked over to her stopped car.

The woman said Symens, who was in uniform working off-duty security at Fitger's Tap Room, asked for her name and shook her hand. She said she had a can of Mountain Dew between her legs. Symens reached down, took the can and said: "What else do you have down there?" and ran his left hand from her knee up the inside of her thigh, stopping at her genital area briefly, then running his hand back down her leg.

The woman said Symens then asked her, "What are you doing tonight?' " She said, " 'I'm going home and going to bed'." She said Symens said, " 'You don't have to if you don't want to'."

In a written statement, Symens said he thought the open metal can between the woman's legs may have been a beer can. He reached in and pulled it out, but said he didn't reach underneath her skirt. He thought she could have mixed a drink using the pop can. He said he smelled the can for alcohol but didn't smell any. He said he asked her if she was going home and she said yes. He said he then said good night, handed the pop can to her and walked away.

In the other alleged incident, a past employee of Grandma's Saloon and Grill told Duluth police that an off-duty Duluth police officer touched her inappropriately in spring 1999. She said at the time that it bothered her but she wanted to try to forget it.

When that officer learned of the February 2000 complaint against Symens, he arranged to have the former Grandma's employee look at a photo lineup of six Duluth police officers. The woman identified Symens as the man she was "100 percent sure" had run his hand up the inside of her leg as she carried a large tray to serve another table.

Symens was disciplined by his own department at that time when it was found that he had violated the Duluth Police Manual Code of Conduct. In addition to a written reprimand, Symens wasn't allowed to work any extra jobs for one year and was to receive training on search and seizures, probable cause to search people and vehicles, and proper procedures for searching females.

He was also warned in his employee performance report that any future inappropriate searching or touching of individuals would result in severe disciplinary action and include dismissal.