Minn. high court: Off-duty officer not entitled to city defense

Alex Chhith, Star Tribune
·2 min read

The Minnesota Su­preme Court has ruled that an of­fi­cer sued over an incident that occurred while he was work­ing as a pri­vate se­curi­ty guard is not en­ti­tled to a defense by the city of St. Paul.

Eric Reetz, a St. Paul police officer, was sued by a woman who was stabbed by a male cli­ent at a St. Paul home­less shel­ter on Dec. 30, 2016. The suit said he failed to de­tect the knife smug­gled in dur­ing his shift.

Reetz con­tended he was en­ti­tled to a city defense. But the Minnesota Su­preme Court ruled other­wise Wednesday, overturning an Appeals Court ruling that had supported Reetz against the city's rejection of representation for him.

"Be­cause we con­clude that Reetz was not 'act­ing in the per­form­ance of the du­ties of the po­si­tion' of a po­lice of­fi­cer un­der [Minnesota law] when he al­leg­ed­ly failed to de­tect the knife at the home­less shel­ter, the City was not re­quired to de­fend and in­dem­ni­fy him," ac­cord­ing to the rul­ing.

Reetz argued that the city was re­quired to de­fend him be­cause "off-duty po­lice of­fic­ers who pro­vide pri­vate se­curi­ty ser­vices can also be per­form­ing po­lice du­ties be­cause they 'per­form these du­ties while in u­ni­form and main­tain the ar­rest pow­er' as if they were on duty."

The city con­clud­ed that he was not per­form­ing his du­ties as a po­lice of­fi­cer while he was work­ing at the Dorothy Day Center, which is operated by Catholic Charities.

Reetz was paid $40 per hour for ex­am­in­ing bags to keep weapons, drugs and al­co­hol from en­ter­ing the center.

St. Paul Police Department pol­icy re­quired him to wear his u­ni­form while work­ing off duty and al­lowed him to use his pa­trol car with pri­or ap­prov­al. While Reetz was re­quired to have his off-duty work ap­proved, the city was not a par­ty to his a­gree­ment with Catholic Charities, the state Supreme Court said.

Alex Chhith • 612-673-5749