First Female Rochester Police Officer Settles Lawsuit for $1,000,000
Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - A longtime Rochester police officer who was put on leave about a year ago and later sued has reached a $1-million settlement and will retire from the department immediately.
Lt Ellie Umpierre was placed on leave after making some Facebook posts about excessive force by police. Chief Roger Peterson later recommended her termination, citing her Facebook posts and her complaint about suspected racial bias by white police officers in an employment decision.
The settlement was approved Monday night by the City Council.
The city’s case was handled by the Minnesota League of City’s insurance department.The city will pay $800,000 of the settlement and the League will cover the remainder.
The League attorney who represented the city says the large settlement was based on Umpierre’s salary and tenure "and the fact that the parties wanted to bridge her to retirement." The attorney says it was in the city’s best interest to settle to “avoid the expense and uncertainty of protracted litigation.”
Umpierre will be paid $600,000 and her law firm will receive the balance.
Umpierre had been with the department for 25 years after being sworn in as its first female officer. She was promoted to sergeant in 2001. She became the department’s first female lieutenant five years ago.
Umpierre was represented by Minneapolis-based Halunen Law. The firm firm says Umpierre criticized excessive force by police officers and expressed her support for Standing Rock protesters in the Facebook posts. The firm says the city put her on administrative leave and hired an external investigator. When the investigation stretched out over several months, Umpierre filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation against the Rochester Police Dept.
Umpierre made the following statement:
“Bias in police departments is a real problem. I’ve seen it firsthand. Now more than ever, police departments need to reflect critically about who they hire, who they promote, and how they teach use-of-force training. I fear this will never happen without public pressure. I hope what happened to me is not the end of a conversation but the beginning of one, and that city officials and their constituents will discuss departmental bias and demand reform.”