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Nearly fired for skywalk incident, Duluth officer returns to patrol after 4 years

Adam Huot earned a master's degree in social work during a lengthy appeals process, and Police Chief Mike Tusken said he has shown "personal and professional growth" since returning to the department.

Adam Huot_web.jpg
Duluth police officer Adam Huot shovels the stairs at a residence while responding to a medical call Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. Huot returned to patrol duty this month after administrators sought to fire him for excessive use of force in May 2017. Contributed / Duluth Police Department
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An officer who the Duluth Police Department attempted to fire for excessive use of force has been returned to patrol duty after more than four years off the streets.

Adam Huot was reassigned to the patrol division this month, the department said in a Tuesday statement that came after the agency featured Huot in a social media post , praising the officer for taking time to shovel the stairs at a residence where he had responded for a medical call Sunday night.

Huot was hired as patrol officer in February 2008 and had six substantiated complaints on his record prior to the May 2017 incident, in which he was seen on body camera dragging a handcuffed, homeless man through the downtown skywalk system and ramming his head into a door.

PREVIOUSLY: Video shows Duluth police officer dragging handcuffed man, slamming head into door

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Police administration attempted to fire Huot following the incident, both for the excessive use of force and for failing to report the incident to a supervisor. Fellow officers on scene did report it, saying they were "shocked" by his actions.

Union officials, while acknowledging the officer's actions were inappropriate, filed a grievance, contending that there was not just cause for termination. Arbitrator Mario Bognanno agreed, calling the officer's actions "unreasonable" and noting his history of disciplinary action, but ruling that he should be reinstated following a 13-month unpaid suspension.

A screenshot from Duluth Police Department body camera footage shows Adam Huot dragging a man through the skywalk in downtown Duluth.
A screenshot from Duluth Police Department body camera footage shows officer Adam Huot dragging a man through the skywalk in downtown Duluth on May 21, 2017. Contributed / Duluth Police Department

The city of Duluth unsuccessfully challenged the ruling in State District Court and at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, with judges refusing to disturb the labor agreement's reliance on arbitration to settle employment disputes.

After the state Supreme Court declined to review the case in November 2019, Huot was returned to active duty in January 2020 , also receiving back pay since his June 2018 reinstatement by the arbitrator. He was initially assigned a variety of administrative duties before being placed in the Financial Crimes Unit in September 2020.

PREVIOUSLY: Supreme Court won't hear Duluth's appeal; officer expected to return to work after skywalk incident

The department said Huot has continued to receive training involving implicit bias and fair and impartial policing, and is "helping grow health and wellness initiatives within the department."

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“The Duluth Police Department recognizes Officer Huot’s actions in May 2017 were unacceptable and betrayed the community’s trust,” Chief Mike Tusken said in a statement.

“Upon his reinstatement to the department, Officer Huot was presented with clear expectations to regain the public’s trust by being kind, caring and compassionate in his service to the community. My decision to put Officer Huot back on patrol is based on my observations of Officer Huot's personal and professional growth aligning with our department’s values, core beliefs and mission.”

Huot, according to the news release, went back to school during the lengthy appeals process. He enrolled at the College of St. Scholastica in August 2018 and graduated with a master's degree in social work in May 2020.

“I think it is important to acknowledge that what happened in May 2017 is my own failure," Huot said in a statement. "I didn’t show up to work that day and give the city of Duluth, the community or my Duluth police partners the best version of myself. I did not give Mr. (Brandon) Houle the patience or empathy he deserved and I failed to see the impact of my actions prior to my split-second decision.”

Huot said he learned about therapy and counseling techniques at St. Scholastica, also taking courses related to social justice, welfare policy and mental health.

"This course work cultivated a tremendous amount of time to reflect and realign my values and perspectives," he said. "My colleagues and professors throughout my studies challenged me to consider all perspectives and to arrive into any situation with empathy and understanding. I returned to the Duluth Police Department a much better person than when I left it."

Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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