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Judge ends former police officer’s lawsuit
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Judge ends former police officer’s lawsuit

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Former Rapid City police officer Glenferd Yellow Robe’s claim that he suffered racial discrimination and harassment has been dismissed by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey L. Viken.

Viken granted a motion for summary judgment in favor of the City of Rapid City, Police Chief Steve Allender and former Police Chief Craig Tieszen.

“Obviously, the city is happy with the result, and hopefully, we can all move on now,” city attorney Joel Landeen said Wednesday.

Landeen emphasized that the judge concluded that Yellow Robe’s claims, whether true or not, would not entitle him to a judgment if the case went to trial.

“If this had gone to trial, a lot of the specifics would have been disputed,” Landeen said.

Yellow Robe’s attorneys, Patrick Duffy and Jeffrey Fransen, declined to comment on Viken’s decision.

In his decision, Viken mentioned that Yellow Robe’s own testimony contradicted some of his assertions of discrimination.

Yellow Robe, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, was a 22-1/2 year veteran of the police department when he was terminated in May 2007.

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At the time, Yellow Robe was the department’s alcohol compliance officer. His dismissal came after repeated warnings that his wife’s purchase of a liquor store would pose a conflict of interest. He was terminated after she was granted a liquor license.

Two years later, in April 2009, Yellow Robe filed a federal lawsuit against the city, Allender, Tieszen, the police department and 30 unnamed parties claiming his termination was the result of age discrimination. He also contended he had endured years of racial discrimination and harassment while serving as a police officer and later as the alcohol compliance officer.

Viken’s decision notes that Yellow Robe heard officers make fun of or criticize Native Americans during daily briefings, but he also points out that Yellow Robe participated in similar racially oriented banter.

“At no time during his employment with the police department did Mr. Yellow Robe ever go to an officer of authority and suggest he had been a victim of racial harassment,” Viken said in his decision.

“By Mr. Yellow Robe’s own admission, for years he was involved in racial antics in the police department,” Viken said.

Allender, who at one time worked with Yellow Robe, said Wednesday that he is pleased with Viken’s ruling.

“I know in my heart the legal system works, but I have been disappointed as an individual, as well as a city official by this whole experience,” Allender said. “It has been a burden on me and the other defendants as well as an undue financial burden on the taxpayers.”

Allender said he now has firsthand experience that people have the ability to sue and cause a serious emotional and financial burden on others without having the ability to prove their allegations.

“I’m happy to move past this and continue serving the citizens of Rapid City,” Allender said.

Contact Andrea Cook at 394-8423 or andrea.cook@rapidcityjournal.com.

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