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Legislative News and Views - Rep. John Thompson (DFL)

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Statement from Representative John Thompson

Monday, July 12, 2021

St. Paul, MN - Today, State Representative John Thompson (DFL - St. Paul) released the following statement:

“Five years ago last week, we marked the killing of my friend Philando Castile, who was shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. Since being pulled over myself on July 4, my greatest regret is how the recent events have allowed us to overlook this time that should have been spent reflecting on the life of my friend and the changes that are needed to create a Minnesota where he would not have lost his life. 

“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.

“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. In the video, you won’t see the officer do anything that isn’t by the book, but the issue is 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. Officers do, however, work in a system that has allowed these too often pretextual traffic stops to continue despite tragic consequences. 

“As much as I hate how recent coverage of this issue has been about me, I recognize I have an obligation to my constituents, and owe them an explanation. I have an obligation for Black men who don't have the platform that I do. I'm pushing legislation for more police accountability, and this situation is a great example of why that work matters. 

“During my stop, it was brought up that my vehicle did not have a front license plate, I did not have a Minnesota driver’s license, and there was a record of me having missed a child support payment. While all of these have relatively simple explanations, I take responsibility for my fault in not addressing these issues and allowing them to eclipse the hard-fought work done in the name of police reform. 

“My family bought a new car, and as with any new vehicle, we had to wait for our plates and get the proper tools to attach them. Not long after purchasing this car, it was rear-ended, and we did not drive the vehicle for some time. When I did drive the car on July 4, it should have had a front license plate, but I didn’t have the right part for the front bracket. After I was stopped, they ran my license, which is a Wisconsin driver’s license. I previously lived in Wisconsin, and my family and I considered moving back there to care for a family member, who will now be coming to live here. I live and work in St. Paul, and have for many years. My Wisconsin license hadn’t previously posed an issue for me, but I will now be changing it to a Minnesota license, as I should have before. During my stop, I was also informed that my license had been suspended for a minor child support issue, one which was resolved long ago. I owe $0 in child support. 

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

“I was able to drive away from this interaction while other Black Minnesotans, in very similar situations, have not. 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. Philando was notably pulled over 49 times, largely for minor violations. I believe these pretextual stops are part of structures that operate to restrict access to jobs and housing, lock us up, and publicly humiliate Black, Indigenous, and communities of color. Interactions like this block us from our families, block us from our kids, and create new barriers to a quality of life. 

“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. 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. I hope we can focus on conversations that center around making that change possible.”