DULUTH — A Duluth police officer who dragged a handcuffed man through the city's skywalk in 2017 is back on patrol duty.
The police department posted a picture of Adam Huot on social media this week, as he shoveled the steps of a resident following a medical call. It ignited dozens of comments between its various online platforms, both critical and supportive.
Twitter user Daniel Morrison wrote, "Yes, officer Huot is such a stand up guy! Oh wait, he dragged someone through the skywalk banging their head on the door. How about you celebrate a real hero rather than this abuser."
Facebook user Nick Patronas wrote, "This officer, during his hiatus from the DPD worked for me, so I was lucky enough to meet him on a personal level. He is kind, caring, honest, and level headed. He wanted to be an officer again, and this is an example of the reason why."
In 2017, Huot handcuffed a man who had refused to leave the city's skywalk system. The man fell to the ground and refused to walk. Body camera footage showed that Huot then grabbed the chain connecting the cuffs and dragged the man about 100 feet. On the way, the man's head struck a metal doorframe.
Huot was dismissed for using unreasonable force and for violating the department's policy by not reporting his use of force.
The Duluth Police Union challenged his firing. A labor arbitrator — who has binding authority to settle the dispute under the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the union — ruled that Huot's conduct warranted discipline but not dismissal. He was reinstated following a 13-month suspension. The city challenged that decision in district court and to the state Court of Appeals. Judges in both cases sided with the police union. Huot returned to desk work in January 2020 and then transferred to the financial crimes unit in September 2020. He was reassigned to patrol duties this month.
In response to social media reaction, the police department released a statement Tuesday.
The department said it recognizes that Huot's 2017 actions were "unacceptable and betrayed the community's trust," wrote Police Chief Mike Tusken.
His decision to return Huot to patrol duties was based on observations that Huot had grown personally and professionally, he said, and on expectations that Huot "regain the public's trust by being kind, caring and compassionate in his service to the community."
The statement says that Huot, during the appeals process, earned a social work master's degree from the College of St. Scholastica, and attends implicit bias and fair and impartial police trainings.
Huot wrote that the 2017 incident was "my own failure."
"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," he said, going on to note that his time at St. Scholastica included learning about social justice and community mental health.
"I hold the negative impacts I have created close to me as a reminder that I can do better," he said.
Houle, who was homeless at the time of the incident, could not be reached for comment.