Updated: March 17, 2020 06:42 PM
Created: March 17, 2020 05:30 PM
The Eden Prairie police officer who was fired for falsifying a search warrant could be headed back to work.
An arbitrator ruled last week that Officer Travis Serafin should be reinstated, despite serious concerns by his own department and the county attorney.
The scathing message from the fall 2018 press conference at the Hennepin County Attorney’s office was that Serafin could no longer be trusted. Prosecutors essentially called him a liar and he was later fired.
“Detective Serafin's behavior here was wrong and inexcusable,” Chief Deputy County Attorney David Brown said at the time. But Serafin fought back and won.
In a 100-page ruling released late last week, arbitrator Jospeh Daly wrote that "Mr. Serafin has faced a grave injustice,” calling him “highly credible and capable.”
Daly concluded the officer simply made a mistake, even though prosecutors claimed he intentionally falsified a search warrant to cover-up his own mistakes in a drug case.
The ruling says the Eden Prairie Police Department must re-instate him.
“Think in every case in which he testifies, the prosecutor knows they're taking the risk,” said Steve Schleicher, a former state and federal prosecutor in Minnesota.
Schleicher says what happens next is the big question since both his employer and the county attorney’s office have made their point clear.
“They could decide they were wrong the first time,” he said. “The problem the county would have is there is already so much information in the public domain about this particular incident.”
This latest ruling underscores the challenge law enforcement agencies face when trying to fire an officer. Last summer, 5 INVESTIGATES reviewed 10 years worth of arbitration cases involving police officers and found they won their jobs back nearly 50-percent of the time.
Former Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi described it as “rolling the dice.”
“Good luck getting rid of anybody," she said. "Just give them a suspension and maybe they'll fight it, maybe they won't."
The county attorney’s office already dismissed several cases that Serafin was involved in because of credibility issues. Neither Eden Prairie or the county attorney’s office would comment on the ruling.
The city can appeal the decision.
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