Richfield cop sues to get job back after slapping incident

A screen shot shows one frame of a video posted to Twitter showing an October 2015 altercation between a Richfield Police Officer and 19-year-old Kamal Gelle.
A screen shot shows one frame of a video posted to Twitter showing an October 2015 altercation between a Richfield Police Officer and 19-year-old Kamal Gelle.

Richfield’s police union is suing the city to reinstate an officer after he was fired, while the city seeks to nullify an arbitrator’s decision requiring that the cop be welcomed back.

An arbitrator ruled this past December that Officer Nathan Kinsey should be allowed back on the force after he was fired for his role in an October 2015 incident, in which he slapped the back of a subject’s head and pushed the teen during a traffic stop.

Arbitrator Charlotte Neigh determined Kinsey’s actions were excusable as he tried to disperse a crowd at Adams Hill Park, and that Kinsey’s only violation was not reporting his use of force and vulgarity during the incident.

But the city of Richfield is yet to allow Kinsey back into the department, claiming in court documents that reinstating the officer would violate public policy.

“Reinstating Nathan Kinsey to his position as a police officer with the City would undermine the public’s health, safety, and welfare rights, and thereby violate a well-defined and dominant public policy,” states the March 20 memorandum asking for the arbitrator’s decision to be vacated.

The city is basing its refusal to reinstate Kinsey not only on the 2015 confrontation, but is claiming seven incidents in which the officer was warned for excessive use of force or failing to adequately report use of force.

Meanwhile, Law Enforcement Labor Services, the union representing Richfield cops, is suing the city for not reinstating Kinsey in accordance with the arbitrator’s ruling. In court documents filed March 28, the union says Kinsey has not been made “whole” for his losses following his overturned termination.

The union accuses the city of violating the Public Employment Labor Relations Act in refusing to reinstate Kinsey. The union is asking a judge to order the officer’s reinstatement and the payment of wages and benefits in accordance with the award, including for the time period from his termination to present.

The conflict sprouted during a time of delicate police-community relations across the country, as stories alleging police brutality against minorities were at the center of attention. Kinsey had stopped a vehicle driven then-19-year-old Kamal Gelle, a Somali-American Columbia Heights resident.

The officer had pulled over Gelle and another vehicle outside Adams Hill park for reckless driving. After dismissing Gelle from the scene, the teen returned while Kinsey was addressing the second car. Gelle was talking on his cellphone and not complying with the Kinsey’s orders to move, proclaiming his right to stand on public property, when the officer struck him on the back of the head and gave him a shove as a crowd looked on.

The arbitrator noted there was no observable injury from the strike, which gained notoriety when a video of the incident surfaced shortly thereafter on Twitter.

Kinsey and another officer on the scene were suspended before Kinsey was ultimately terminated in April 2016. Police Chief Jay Henthorne referred to tense community relations in explaining his reaction to the incident.

“The current cultural climate and societal attitudes towards law enforcement demands transparency and police accountability,” Henthorne said, as quoted in legal documents.

Contact Andrew Wig at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RISunCurrent.

  • Sam Clemens

    Maybe this is where adding a requirement for the officer to wear a body camera is warranted to protect the citizenry, officer, and department.