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With cop career all but finished, Rude begins to accept his fate

Published 10:42am Saturday, February 6, 2010

A representative of Minnesota’s police officer licensing board said in his 10 years with the agency, he’s never seen a successful revocation appeal — a discouraging sign for former Austin police Cpt. Curt Rude, whose license was revoked in December.

Paul Monteen, a standards coordinator with the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, said by law he couldn’t discuss Rude’s case in-depth because of confidentiality issues. However, he did say that Rude should be well aware of the state statutes in play, which Monteen said are all pretty cut and dried.

By Minnesota law, a police officer’s license is automatically revoked upon a felony conviction — which is defined as being charged with a crime and later being found guilty — whether or not punishment is stayed or executed. In Rude’s case, his sentence was stayed, provided he completes five years of probation and performs 200 hours of community service.

More specific to Rude’s situation, an officer convicted of a controlled substance or narcotics crime is subject to “disciplinary action,” according to statute. Rude was convicted of felony drug possession for taking a bottle of the prescription painkiller OxyContin out of the Austin Police Department’s evidence room in November 2007.

The pills belonged to Mark Johnson, a close friend of Rude’s and a former KAAL-TV reporter who died of an OxyContin overdose earlier that year.

But perhaps the clearest statute — and most damaging to Rude’s chances of becoming a cop again — is Minnesota Rule 6700.0700. It states that no applicant may be appointed to the position of peace officer who has been convicted of a felony in Minnesota, or in any other state or federal jurisdiction.

However, Rude said he isn’t completely discouraged by what appears to be a near-impossible appeals process.

“To me, just because it hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” he said. “In the end, I’m disappointed. (But) I think things are open to judicial review.”

Rude was speaking over the phone from Memphis. Since being put on leave shortly after he was charged in 2007, Rude has worked as a cross-country truck driver, with trips often taking him far from his family in Austin.

He’s maintained that he likes the job, but he’s not sure if it’s in his long-term future. Ultimately, Rude said he would like to get back to doing what he loves most — serving the community as a police officer.

Two weeks ago, the former captain petitioned the Austin Police Civil Service Commission for more time before terminating him, since he was optimistic that he could appeal successfully and get back to serving the community. At the time, Rude said he could envision himself working in the APD again, perhaps even as chief following Paul Philipp’s Jan. 31 retirement.

But the “wind was taken out of my sails,” Rude said, when the commission decided on Jan. 25 to terminate him as a city employee. The former captain said he would still work with his attorneys to explore any possible routes, but for now, one avenue is closed.

Rude said he has fought to get his license — and career — back because he feels he owes it to the people he so enjoyed working with in the APD.

“I felt duty-bound and honored to fight for that,” he said. “I felt I had to stand up for something.”

Rude added: “I was proud to serve the citizens of Austin. I’m not just going to walk away.”

But the choice might not be his to make, and the man who served more than 20 years in the APD may have to learn to accept his fate. Speaking from his semi while on the road Thursday, Rude said he’s beginning to do just that.

“You got to accept life the way it is,” he said. “My life is in an upheaval, of course … I don’t have the answers, in all honesty, to what’s next.”

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