Minneapolis police Lt. Michael Friestleben waited months to report a man who stalked a female police officer he supervised, leading to his ouster last year as inspector of the city’s Fourth Precinct, according to newly released documents.
The records shed further light on the demotion of Friestleben, a popular commander whose removal sparked public outcry. They detail an investigation by the Office of Police Conduct Review (OPCR) into Friestleben’s handling of a stalking case involving one of his officers. A review panel concluded that he violated department policy by waiting months to report the stalking of the female officer by a former high school classmate. The nearly 300 pages of witness statements, phone logs, timelines and other documents — some of which are redacted — had not been made public. They were released Friday after a data practices request by KARE-TV.
The panel also faulted Friestleben for discussing an open internal investigation involving the stalking incident with the officer, who is unnamed.
He was suspended last May after a complaint was filed with the OPCR.
In a June 2016 letter released with the other documents, Chief Janeé Harteau said she agreed with a panel’s findings, insisting that she had lost “all faith” in his abilities as inspector. “While I may remove him without cause, these circumstances warrant a disciplinary demotion and are intended to impress upon him the magnitude of his errors,” she wrote.
Friestleben was subsequently stripped of his command and demoted to lieutenant, his civil service rank. Harteau has repeatedly declined to discuss the reasons for his demotion, citing state privacy laws.
According to the records, Friestleben came under investigation over questions about his handling of a case involving a Fourth Precinct officer, who in February 2015 approached her supervisors because she was being stalked by a former high school classmate, identified in court documents as 32-year-old Kyle Blake.
Blake, of West St. Paul, later pleaded guilty to violating the terms of a restraining order under a plea deal that dismissed three gross misdemeanor stalking charges.
Investigators said that Blake contacted Friestleben on July 21, 2015, asking that he lift the restraining order. Friestleben, who noted that the man became very agitated during their phone conversation, told him to file a complaint with Internal Affairs, records show. But, investigators say, the then-inspector didn’t notify the officer’s supervisor of the call until October. He also didn’t file a report documenting the conversation until Jan. 26, 2016, and only after being prodded by several of his subordinates.
An internal investigation was opened and Friestleben was placed on paid leave. At the time, department officials gave no reason for his suspension, citing privacy laws.
A review panel ruled that Friestleben had violated department policy by not reporting his phone conversation with the alleged stalker sooner. As inspector, the panel concluded, he should have acted more decisively to protect his subordinates.
The panel also ruled that Friestleben shouldn’t have discussed the ongoing OPCR investigation with the officer. Reports say Friestleben apologized for not making the report sooner and told the officer he “would not hold it against her” if she was the one who filed the complaint against him.
Friestleben was demoted and transferred to the department’s community engagement unit.
Friestleben joined the department in 1988 and worked through the ranks with stints in the Fourth and Fifth precincts.
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 Twitter: @StribJany