The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

July 21, 2013

Officer in crash criticized in internal documents

(Continued)

In the explanation of his suspension, the report notes that the double fatality occurred while Rasmussen was attempting to affect a traffic stop of a "petty misdemeanor violator." It also noted his speed, the presence of other traffic, that Garden is a 30 mph two-lane street and that neither the emergency light bar nor siren were used in the moments leading up to the collision even though he had been trained that both pieces of equipment are in place "to alert the public of potential excessive squad car speed."

"Officer Rasmussen's actions constitute misfeasance and warrant this disciplinary action," the report concluded.

The file also indicates he was too focused on ticketing traffic violators and mentions other complaints about Rasmussen's driving: "New Ulm Police Department administration has been notified by the public and a member of another agency that Officer Rasmussen's driving conduct had been aggressive."

The performance improvement plan required Rasmussen to keep a handwritten daily shift log, broken down into 15-minute increments, detailing his patrol activity, his response to calls and other tasks. When a sergeant wasn't on duty to supervise Rasmussen, he was told to use an in-squad recording system to video/audio record all patrolling and provide the recording to Police Chief Myron Wieland.

The plan also included attendance of emergency vehicle operations training shortly after his suspension and a one-year ban on stationary radar (where an officer parks his squad beside a road to monitor the speed of on-coming vehicles).

The only other disciplinary notes in his file related to his failure to remove a non-departmental issue raincoat when instructed by his sergeant and a Dec. 11, 2011, incident where he showed "below standard" decision-making by "deflecting a DWI suspect's face due to the suspect spitting ... ."

The three-day suspension — which would have totaled $567 in lost salary based on his starting pay in January 2010 — was implemented in April 2012, the same time the performance improvement process began. Rasmussen remains a patrol officer in the department, according to city records, so the performance improvement requirements have apparently been met.

The city and Rasmussen, working through their insurer, agreed last spring to a $570,000 settlement with the heirs of Myra Meyer and Brian Wichmann, the victims of the crash. Prosecutors declined to pursue any criminal action against Rasmussen late in 2011.

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