Arbitrator says deputy who beat K-9 partner must keep job
ST. PAUL - A Ramsey County deputy who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after beating his canine partner during an out-of-town event will keep his job despite the sheriff's office's attempt to fire him.
ST. PAUL - A Ramsey County deputy who pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after beating his canine partner during an out-of-town event will keep his job despite the sheriff’s office’s attempt to fire him.
Deputy Brett Arthur Berry was fired April 8, a few months after a Carlton County, Minn., judge sentenced him to a year of unsupervised probation for the June 2015 incident at Black Bear Casino. Berry admitted that he got drunk while at the casino for a canine officers’ certification event and beat his K-9 partner, Boone, out of frustration when he had a hard time putting the dog back on the leash after taking him outside for a walk.
The incident was captured on security video and generated considerable anger from the public and embarrassment to the sheriff’s office.
Berry went back to work after the incident but was removed from the K-9 team. He first was assigned to security at Regions Hospital and later to handling extraditions and out-of-state warrants, according to the arbitrator’s report. The sheriff’s office terminated him in April after completing its internal investigation.
In a decision filed Monday, state arbitrator Gil Vernon wrote that the sheriff’s office did not sufficiently consider mitigating factors when it moved to fire Berry, and those factors show Berry is at a low risk of future misconduct. He noted that Berry had been forthright about his behavior that night and he sought counseling afterward.
“The record shows he has nearly 20 years of incident-free service with good evaluations,” Vernon wrote. “He spontaneously, contritely, sincerely and without equivocation accepted his responsibility. Next he without prompting moved immediately to address his underlying personal issues.”
Vernon noted that the canine Boone suffered no physical injuries, and several of Berry’s supervisors said they expected no problems if he returned to service.
Vernon ordered that Berry be reinstated to active duty immediately but with the restriction that he cannot work with canines. He also ruled that the county does not have to repay Berry the back wages he lost since his termination in April.
“The permanency of his reinstatement is dependent on the successful completion of the terms of his misdemeanor probation,” Vernon wrote. “Based on (Berry’s) record and reaction to this incident, the Arbitrator is convinced that it was an aberration and that he deserves another (but last) chance to resume his career.”
Asked Monday about Berry’s current status with the department, Sgt. John Eastham, spokesman for the Ramsey County sheriff’s office, said he could not immediately answer out of respect for the mediation process and state law. The sheriff’s office plans to hold a news conference Tuesday about the arbitrator’s decision, which Eastham said is binding.
Berry’s labor union said it supported the arbitrator’s decision, citing his remorse, his decision to seek counseling and his otherwise unblemished disciplinary record.
“Officer Berry has the support of his fellow officers, and we believe he can still be an asset to his department and to the people of Ramsey County,” Sean Gormley, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services of Minnesota, said in a Monday evening statement.