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Nisswa police officer fired for being drunk on the job... twice

More than 14 years after he joined the force, Brandon Rothwell got promoted. Less than two years later, he got fired.

More than 14 years after he joined the force, Brandon Rothwell got promoted. Less than two years later, he got fired. Nisswa Police Department

Brandon Rothwell joined the Nisswa Police Department in 2002, not long after he graduated from Central Lakes College with a degree in Criminal Justice. In 2016, 14 years into his service to the department, Rothwell was promoted to sergeant. 

In December 2018, Rothwell was handed a one-week suspension for showing up at work under the influence. Under the terms of his getting back on the beat, Rothwell was subject to passing a breathalyzer test upon request.

It took less than a year for that condition to be invoked, according to the Brainerd Dispatch. On September 10, Rothwell arrived at the police department at 3:00 a.m. for a shift. 

Rothwell, who'd driven his squad car to work, was observed to be unusually "talkative," "sleepy," and with "droopy" eyes, according to a subsequent report by Nisswa Police Chief Craig Taylor. Asked directly, Rothwell first denied he'd been drinking that night. 

Taylor instructed his sergeant to take a breathalyzer test, at which point Rothwell changed his tune. His breath registered a .17 blood alcohol reading, more than twice the legal limit for driving; Rothwell surrendered his badge and gun, and was placed on paid leave.

In a recommendation to the city council, Taylor cited "significant public safety concerns" raised by Rothwell driving a police squad car "in full uniform," drunk, and with his gun on him. 

“[Rothwell] was the only peace officer on duty and his conduct subjected himself and the community to great risk of harm," Taylor said. "His actions were extremely egregious, and they placed both himself as well as officers from adjoining communities at great personal risk, should he have been required to request or serve as their backup.”

Rothwell remained on paid leave for nearly two full months before he was fired November 7. Records of the investigation into his termination became public after he failed to file a grievance over his firing.