Cloquet police officer leaves force due to allegations of misconduct
A longtime Cloquet police officer has left the force following allegations of misconduct.
Mayor Dave Hallback and councilors Roger Maki, Steve Langley and Barb Wyman voted in favor of a separation agreement, which allows Beckman some compensation for his accrued sick leave. Councilors Dave Bjerkness, Jeff Rock and Kerry Kolodge voted against it.
Beckman’s departure from the CPD prompted a press release Wednesday, Dec. 19, from the acting Carlton County attorney, Jeffrey Boucher. It revealed 18 cases involving Beckman have been dismissed and another four cases submitted for review were not charged.
The County Attorney’s Office is reviewing an additional 25 cases involving Beckman.
“In each case, the County Attorney’s Office will review the file and determine if Officer Beckman was a critical witness or a peripheral witness,” Boucher stated in the release. “Defendants and defense attorneys will be notified. It is possible that additional cases will be dismissed. Cases that have been dismissed could be refiled at a future date if review of the evidence establishes that the case could be successfully prosecuted in light of the information regarding Officer Beckman.”
The nature of the misconduct allegations that led to his separation from the department were not immediately clear. The Pine Journal has filed public data requests with the city of Cloquet for the separation agreement and all complaints made against Beckman during his tenure with the CPD.
Boucher said he enacted a “Brady Disclosure Policy” on Dec. 3. Brady v. Maryland is a 1963 Supreme Court case requiring disclosure of exculpatory material to defendants in criminal prosecutions, including misconduct findings involving law enforcement officers.
Following the regular business of the council Tuesday, the meeting was closed for an hour-long discussion regarding allegations of misconduct against Beckman. The separation agreement allows Beckman to be paid one-third of his accrued sick leave, per city policy, according to City Administrator Aaron Reeves.
Beckman has a long history of misconduct allegations and discipline from the CPD. He was found guilty by an outside investigator of lying to a superior officer in February 2016 and falsifying an application for a search warrant in 2016.
Then-Cloquet Police Chief Steve Stracek recommended Beckman’s employment be terminated in August 2016. In a special meeting Aug. 24, 2016, a motion not to dismiss Beckman ended in a tie vote with Hallback and councilors Langley and Rock voting not to dismiss him, while Bjerkness, Kolodge and then-Councilor Lara Wilkinson voted against the motion. Maki was absent.
After a grievance process through the police union, Beckman was suspended for 11 days.
In a separate incident in 2012, Beckman pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor failure in the duties of a driver in State District Court in Virginia, Minn.
Beckman was charged in an off-duty incident Sept. 4, 2011, following a concert at Fortune Bay Casino on Lake Vermillion.
Beckman reportedly left the scene of a crash after his car was rear-ended by another vehicle.
Beckman initially told authorities he pulled over, but the car that hit him continued to move. He later told investigators he didn’t stop because traffic around him continued to move.
He was charged with three crimes: gross misdemeanor failure in the duties of a driver for failing to give notice by the quickest means of communication to law enforcement; misdemeanor hit-and-run for failing to immediately stop and remain at the scene of an accident; and misdemeanor falsely reporting a crime for providing false information to an officer regarding the conduct of others.
Beckman pleaded guilty to the first charge; the other two were dismissed.
The councilors’ Tuesday vote fell along the same lines as many other votes regarding the CPD since controversy surrounding the department erupted following the suspension of Stracek in March 2016.
Hallback and Langley were joined by Councilor Barb Wyman and, in a surprise, Maki, in voting to approve the separation agreement. In the past, Maki has sided with Bjerkness and Kolodge in issues surrounding the CPD, while Rock has largely sided with Hallback, Langley and Wyman.
In a special meeting called by Hallback on March 16, 2017, councilors voted to place Stracek on administrative leave while they conducted an investigation into a "vote of no confidence" filed by the Teamsters Local 346, which represents CPD officers and sergeants. After a lengthy investigation, Stracek was exonerated of allegations contained in the letter, but also resigned as chief.
Two of the four councilors who voted Tuesday in favor of the separation agreement — Hallback and Wyman — will leave the council in January after losing their re-election bids. Hallback lost in the General Election to Maki on Nov. 6, while Wyman was defeated in the August primary.
Maki, who will take office as mayor in January, declined to comment until more information becomes available.
Outgoing County Attorney Thom Pertler could not be reached for comment.
County attorney-elect Lauri Ketola told the Pine Journal she has confidence in Boucher’s review of cases involving Beckman and will continue to review any further cases when she takes office next month.
“I have total confidence in Mr. Boucher doing what’s in the best interest of the County Attorney’s Office and the public,” Ketola said. “My intent upon taking office in January will be to review any pending matters with respect to Brady/Giglio issues and my office will conduct itself with transparency and integrity.”
Contact information for Beckman was unavailable.