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Rep. Thompson calls for release of body camera video from his traffic stop

He claimed he was racially profiled when he was pulled over.
John Thompson

Rep. John Thompson

Minnesota Rep. John Thompson supports the release of body camera video from when he was pulled over in St. Paul on July 4. 

Thompson, DFL-St. Paul, released a statement Monday about the incident in which he claimed he was racially profiled when he got pulled over for driving without a front license plate.

"There have been calls to release the bodycam footage from my stop, which I want to make clear I fully support. It is within the power of the St. Paul Police to release that footage, and I am not a barrier to that," Thompson said in the statement

He says the body camera video won't show the officer doing "anything that isn't by the book." St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell previously stressed the "traffic stop was by the books" and had "absolutely nothing to do with the driver's race."

Related [July 12]: DFL leadership 'disappointed' by Rep. John Thompson's traffic stop controversy

But Thompson says the book itself is the issue, saying "We need to rewrite the book."

"I do not know the officer who pulled me over, and I have no reason to believe they have any hate towards me specifically," his statement said. "Officers do, however, work in a system that has allowed these too often pretextual traffic stops to continue despite tragic consequences."

Thompson, a Black man, noted he was pulled over for a pretextual traffic stop. Philando Castile and Daunte Wright, both Black, were also pulled over in pretextual stops and they were fatally shot by police. 

“I was able to drive away from this interaction while other Black Minnesotans, in very similar situations, have not," Thompson said. 

He was pulled over for driving without a front license plate and was cited for driving with a suspended license. He has a Wisconsin driver's license (he says he used to live there and considered moving back but he lives and works in St. Paul) and had his driving privileges revoked in 2019 after missing a child support payment, his statement says. 

“After all of this, I was only given a ticket for driving with a suspended license,” the statement says. “I do not know why I wasn’t cited for driving without the front license plate — the reason for my stop.”

Thompson, who has never had a Minnesota driver's license, says he plans to get a Minnesota license "as I should have before." Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesperson Doug Neville told the Star Tribune Thompson's driving privileges were reinstated last Wednesday. 

"The desire to be treated with respect and be able to drive away from this interaction safely was why I informed the officer I was a state representative during our conversation. Too many Minnesotans are dealing with barriers like this without a respectable title in front of their name," Thompson said.

Thompson said pretextual stops disproportionately target nonwhite people, which is why he previously said he was pulled over because of racial profiling.

The lawmaker said he's been working to get rid of these types of stops and he'll continue to push legislation for additional police accountability, adding: "This situation is a great example of why that work matters."

A bill that would have required police to write tickets and mail them for driving violations that don't pose a public safety risk instead of pulling people over failed to get Republican support during the most recent legislative session. 

"We need better, and that’s what I’m working towards. I understand that my emotions can sometimes make it hard for some people to hear the real message," Thompson said. "These are difficult issues, and I’ve lost loved ones, but I ask you to work with me. 

"We need a broad coalition, including law enforcement, to come together to understand that Minnesotans that look like me — my family, friends, and community — are living with these issues every day," Thompson added. "I hope we can focus on conversations that center around making that change possible."

Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin on Monday, before Thompson released his statement, said he was "disappointed" in Thompson's actions, saying no one is above the law. 

Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan also released a statement Monday, calling on Thompson to allow the body camera footage to be released and apologize to the St. Paul Police Department, saying "nobody is above the law."

Gov. Tim Walz has also expressed support in having the body camera footage released. 

St. Paul Police Department spokesperson Steve Linders told WCCO the SPPD supports releasing the body camera footage but they have to make sure it's properly redacted and released in accordance with state law. However, Linders said Thompson could speed up the process if he signs the SPPD's data practices form.

Meanwhile, questions about Thompson's residency remain. On the citation SPPD issued on July 4, his address is listed as Blair Avenue in St. Paul, which is not in his district, WCCO says. Minnesota law requires state representatives to live in their district. 

And the Pioneer Press says in November 2020, Thompson renewed his Wisconsin driver's license — the same month he was on the ballot to represent St. Paul's East Side. 

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