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Transit cop who asked about immigration status received $34K upon resignation

MINNEAPOLIS—In May, a Metro Transit police officer asked a Minneapolis light-rail passenger about his immigration status. His actions were recorded on video, which went viral on Facebook, and were criticized locally and nationally.

The officer, Andrew Lamers, resigned later that month. A separation agreement between him and Metro Transit shows he received $50,000, or nearly $34,000 after taxes.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington said Wednesday that he believed it was important to have Lamers leave the department quickly and the settlement agreement made that happen. The department asked Lamers whether he would be interested in resigning, Harrington said.

If Harrington would have tried to terminate Lamers, the officer may have appealed the police chief's decision and the process could have taken more than a year, Harrington said. The cost of the investigation and arbitration might have been more than the settlement, according to Harrington.

"We believed that the trust of the community was so important and this was such a major disruption in the trust that we were getting from the community that we needed to do something sooner rather than waiting," Harrington said. "... I think by doing it this way we actually saved the public money and at the same time were able to re-establish the trust with our community that we depend on."

After the resignation, rumors spread that Lamers, an officer in New Hope, had been fired from his part-time position with Metro Transit.

"In fact, Officer Lamers resigned on his own accord, in part to try to spare Metro Transit from further scrutiny. He regrets the attention this issue has brought to his fellow officers at Metro Transit," Sean Gormley, executive director of Law Enforcement Labor Services, said in a statement in May.

Metro Transit said it was not the practice of their officers to ask about immigration status, even before the incident. Afterward, Metro Transit updated its policies to explicitly state that transit officers will "ensure equal enforcement and equal services to all persons regardless of their immigration status," according to a Facebook post in May.

During officers' annual in-service training, which began Wednesday, an immigration attorney is reviewing immigration law with officers and going over the revised policy, Harrington said.