After Minnesota state Rep. John Thompson (D) claims he was racially profiled, police in St. Paul, Minnesota, released bodycam footage of a traffic encounter involving him on Tuesday.
Thompson was pulled over by a St. Paul police officer just after midnight on July 4 because he was driving without a front license plate, which is prohibited in Minnesota. Thompson alleged that the officer pulled him over because he was black during the traffic stop and afterwards in a statement.
The officer approaches Thompson’s vehicle at the start of the video. According to the police department, the audio was quiet at first because the bodycam was buffering.
As the audio starts, the officer asks Thompson, “Why in such a hurry?”
“I don’t think I took off like a bat out of hell, I just drove off,” Thompson replied.
The officer noticed that Thompson’s license is from Wisconsin as he and Thompson go through the lawmaker’s insurance and license. Thompson stated in a statement published Monday that he got his Wisconsin driver’s license because his family was discussing a return to the state to care for a family member.
For approximately 14 minutes of the 16-minute footage, the officer returns to his vehicle. Thompson’s license has been suspended in Minnesota, the officer adds after returning to Thompson’s vehicle. Thompson’s driver’s license had been suspended in 2019 due to nonpayment of child support.
Reported by WCCO, “According to records, Thompson does not hold a Minnesota driver’s license and has never had a driver’s license issued by Minnesota, and he was eventually cited by the officer for driving with a suspended Wisconsin license. WCCO learned his license was revoked on April 21, 2019 for his failure to pay child support in Ramsey County. You can have action taken on your driving record in Minnesota even if you do not hold a valid license. And a license can be suspended because of child support. Thompson’s license was reinstated Wednesday after taking care of the child support issue.”
Thompson afterwards demands to know as to why he was stopped, and the officer responds that it was due of Thompson’s missing front license plate and the manner he departed a stoplight.
“I’m too old to run from the police man. You profiled me because you looked me dead in the face and I got a ticket for driving while Black. You pulled me over because you saw a Black face in this car brother. There’s no way in hell I’m taking off with you behind me,” Thompson replied.
“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. Stop doing that,” Thompson continued as the officer rejects the idea that Thompson was racially profiled.
St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell issued a statement after the encounter, asking for the release of the bodycam video and defending his officer involved.
“I was shocked to hear that driver accuse the sergeant of making the stop based on race,” he 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, made at about 1:20 in the morning, had absolutely nothing to do with the driver’s race,” Axtell wrote in a post on Facebook.
“The traffic stop was by the books. What happened afterwards was anything but,” Axtell continued.
Thompson did not retract his accusations of being racially profiled in his own statement, and he did not apologize for his actions. He did say, though, that the traffic stop was conducted “by the book.”
“I was pulled over in what is referred to as a pretextual traffic stop. The same type of stop that led to the killing of Philando, as well as Daunte Wright this April. 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,” Thompson claimed.
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