The video, released by the City of St. Paul, shows state Rep. John Thompson, a Democrat, being pulled over on July 4 after midnight, with the officer citing a missing front license plate and speeding as the reasons for the traffic stop.
Thompson is heard in the video disputing the traffic stop, explaining to the officer that he believes he was stopped because the officer “saw a black face” driving the vehicle.
The lawmaker also released a statement following the interaction, claiming that many of the “pretextual stops” by law enforcement are to “publicly humiliate black, Indigenous, and communities of color.”
In the 16-minute video footage—which is largely footage of the officer sitting in his cruiser going through Thompson’s driver’s license—the officer is seen approaching the lawmaker with a flashlight while asking him why he’s in such a hurry as he checks his identification.
“I don’t think I took off like a bat out of hell. I just drove off,” Thompson responded.
The officer is then seen walking back to his cruiser to go through all the information on the lawmaker’s driver’s license via the built-in computer terminal.
About 15 minutes into the footage, the unnamed officer returns to Thompson and tells him his license in Minnesota is suspended and hands him a ticket.
“You profiled me because you looked me dead in the face and I got a ticket for driving while black,” Thompson responded to the officer telling him he got ticketed for driving without a front plate. “You pulled me over because you saw a black face in this car, brother.
“What you’re doing is wrong, to black men. And you need to stop that. Thank you so much, but this ticket means nothing to me. … What I’m saying to you is, stop racially profiling black men in their cars, sir.”
The state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said they’re “disappointed” in Thompson, their colleague, for accusing the St. Paul officer of racial profiling after police released the body camera footage.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said in a statement following the incident and his review of the video footage that he believes the stop wasn’t racially motivated, and he urged Thompson to offer the sergeant an apology.
“I was shocked to hear that driver accuse the sergeant of making the stop based on race,” Axtell 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.
“This stop … had absolutely nothing to do with the driver’s race. 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.”
In a lengthy statement made by Thompson following the interaction, he explained why he didn’t have a front license plate and promised to push “legislation for more police accountability.”
“I was pulled over in what is referred to as a pretextual traffic stop,” Thompson said. “Pretextual stops have been shown to not only do little to stop serious crimes, but they also disproportionately target nonwhites. This was the racial profiling I spoke to, and I’ve been working to get rid of these types of stops long before this summer.
“I’m pushing legislation for more police accountability, and this situation is a great example of why that work matters.”
From NTD News