By Tim Pearce
Police in St. Paul, Minnesota, released bodycam footage Tuesday of a traffic stop involving Minnesota state Rep. John Thompson (D) after the lawmaker claimed he was racially profiled.
A St. Paul police officer pulled Thompson over early in the morning on July 4, saying that the lawmaker was driving without a front license plate, which is illegal in Minnesota. Thompson claimed during the traffic stop, and in a statement released afterward, that the police officer pulled him over because he is black.
The video begins with the police officer approaching Thompson’s car. The audio is silent in the beginning as the bodycam buffered, according to the police department.
“Why in such a hurry?” the officer asks Thompson as the audio begins.
Thompson replies: “I don’t think I took off like a bat out of hell, I just drove off.”
As the officer and Thompson go through the lawmaker’s insurance and license, the officer notes that Thompson’s license is from Wisconsin. In his statement released Monday, Thompson said that he obtained a Wisconsin license because his family was considering moving back to the state to care for a family member.
The officer returns to his cruiser for about 14 minutes of the roughly 16-minute long video. After returning to Thompson’s car, the officer says that Thompson’s license has been suspended in Minnesota. Thompson’s license had been suspended in 2019 after he failed to pay child support. As WCCO reports:
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 WCCO learned his license was revoked on April 21, 2019 for his failure to pay child support in Ramsey County.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 later asks why he was pulled over, and the officer says because of Thompson’s missing front license plate and because of the way he took off from a stoplight.
“I’m too old to run from the police man,” Thompson replies. “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.”
“What you’re doing is wrong, to Black men,” Thompson continues as the officer denies that Thompson was racially profiled. “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.”
After the incident, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell released a statement calling for the release of the bodycam footage and stood behind his officer’s conduct.
“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.
In his own statement, Thompson did not back off his claims of being racially profiled and did not apologize for his conduct. He noted, however, that the traffic stop was “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,” Thompson claimed. “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.”
Author: Tim Pearce