Lawmaker claims he got ticketed for being black. Police chief says race wasn’t involved, demands lawmaker apologize to officer.
The police chief of St. Paul, Minnesota, said he wants a state representative to apologize for accusing a sergeant of racial profiling during a July 4 traffic stop, KSTP-TV reported.
What are the details?
State Rep. John Thompson of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party made the accusation last week at a rally for Philando Castile, who was killed by police in 2016, outside the governor’s residence, the station said.
“We’re still getting ‘driving while black’ tickets in this state and, in fact, in St. Paul,” Thompson said, according to KSTP. “So let’s just call it what it is, right … I shouldn’t have to be profiled, so this is ridiculous. Oh, and by the way, it was a sergeant here in St. Paul … We promote bad behavior.”
But St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell took issue with Thompson in a Facebook post Friday, the station said.
“These aren’t accusations I take lightly, so I looked into the traffic stop, watched the body worn camera footage, and spoke to the sergeant,” Axtell wrote, according to KSTP. “This stop, made at about 1:20 in the morning, had absolutely nothing to do with the driver’s race.
“Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books,” Axtell added, the station said. “What happened afterward was anything but… I’m dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop. Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions, and deny any wrongdoing.”
Axtell then called out Thompson, KSTP said: “The driver, an elected official who does not dispute driving without a front license plate, owes our sergeant an apology.”
While the stop was for lack of a license plate, the Pioneer Press said Thompson was cited for operating a motor vehicle after his driving privileges were suspended.
What happened next?
The station said Thompson hasn’t responded to its nearly one dozen requests for comment via phone, text, and email — and he declined to give police permission to release the body camera video of his traffic stop, which led the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association to issue a statement demanding its release.
“Rep. Thompson’s signature issue at the state legislature was advocating for rapid release of police officer’s body camera footage,” MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters said, according to KSTP. “Now he’s blocking the public release of body camera footage of his own incident with law enforcement this past week. As a public official, it’s hypocritical and irresponsible. Constituents have the right to see how their legislator conducted himself, particularly when he made such strong claims about what happened during the traffic stop.”
More from the station:
We’ve also learned more about the unusual issue of Thompson having only a Wisconsin driver’s license despite serving in the Minnesota State Legislature. A Wisconsin Department of Public Safety spokesman confirmed Thompson has had a license in that state since 2000 and has renewed it in 2005, 2012, and in November of 2020, the same month he was elected to represent the east of St. Paul in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says Thompson has never had a Minnesota driver’s license. From May 2019 until this week his Minnesota “driving privileges” were suspended due to unpaid child support. Public safety officials said that issue was taken care of this week and he is now eligible to get a Minnesota driver’s license.
Without any response from Thompson, it’s difficult to know whether he claims his residency in Minnesota or Wisconsin.
KSTP added that it’s unclear what any of these revelations will have on his ability to continue in the Minnesota Legislature without more clarity on his residency.
Rebuke from party head
The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party chairman rebuked Thompson in a statement Sunday, saying he was “disappointed” in him, KSTP reported in a separate story.
“Nobody is above the law, including our elected officials. We expect all of our elected officials, regardless of party, to not only follow the law, but to hold themselves to the highest standards,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said, according to the station. “Whether they like it or not, their words, actions, and behavior are going to be scrutinized by the public. As such it is important for people in positions of power and influence to model the type of behavior we expect from everyone.”
When Thompson was campaigning for the State House last summer at the height of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter rioting, he launched into a fiery tirade outside the home of the Minneapolis Police Federation president — and hinted that the town of Hugo should be burned down.
“Why the f*** is we so peaceful in this [homophobic slur removed] neighborhood,” Thompson shouted. “F*** your motherf***ing peace, white racist motherf***ers!”
He added in reference to Floyd, “This whole god***n state burned down for $20 god***n dollars, you think we give a f*** about burning Hugo down?”
“Blue lives don’t mean s*** to black people,” Thompson also said. “F*** Hugo, Minnesota!”
Thompson also was criticized for beating effigies of the police federation leader and his wife outside their Hugo home, KTSP noted, adding that Thompson later apologized.