EDINA, Minn. - The Mayor of Edina says the city will drop a citation issued to a pedestrian involved in a controversial videotaped encounter with a police officer.
Jim Hovland also says that while the officer was following established Edina Police Department protocol, the city will review that protocol and determine how to "better approach this type of incident with greater sensitivity in the future."
The incident the mayor is referring to unfolded just before noon on Oct. 12, when an African American pedestrian named Larnie Thomas was stopped after an Edina Police officer said he was walking in the traffic lane of a busy city street with headphones on. The officer said Thomas refused to get out of the road, became defiant, and was eventually arrested. Police maintain Thomas was under the influence of alcohol.
A Twin Cities woman who videotaped the encounter had a distinctly different take on what happened, saying Thomas was in the street only because of sidewalk construction, and that he was doing his best to stay out of traffic.
In a release Saturday, the Minneapolis NAACP quoted Janet Rowles, who they say recorded the incident on her phone.
"I began videoing the incident because I felt that the pedestrian might be safer with my presence as a recording witness... I have no interest in vilifying the police, but obviously I got out of my car in the first place because I perceive the pedestrian might not get treated fairly because of his ethnicity. The officer could have slowed to warn him he might be in danger by being on the white line and suggesting a better place for him to walk, but stopping to try to exert control over him was overzealous."
Rowles' videotape of the incident blew up on social media, with activist groups decrying the police response and quick escalation of tensions. Others came to the defense of the officer, saying he used amazing restraint in dealing with a hostile lawbreaker who was screaming profanity and swinging his backpack wildly.
Edina Police posted a defense of the officer's response on its Facebook page, and on Sunday Mayor Hovland issued his statement. Hovland emphasized that Thomas was never taken to jail, but driven to a local shopping mall and dropped off, at his request.
In a release, the City of Edina responded to the Minneapolis NAACP's requests for a formal, independent investigation, officer suspension, race and other demographic data collection and a formal apology by the mayor and police chief, among others.
City responds to requests from the NAACP Minneapolis regarding a recent police incident. Read the response here: https://t.co/r1vk1reXQ9— City of Edina, MN (@EdinaMN) October 17, 2016
The city says the officer in the video will remain on the job, noting he and all officers involved followed the department's established procedures and "the incident ended safely."
The city also said it invites Minneapolis NAACP to talk with staff more about data collection request, and how it will be done and used.
As far as an apology, they city says it believes the officers involved followed established protocol.
"The city will review that protocol and determine how to better approach this type of incident with greater sensitivity in the future. There are lessons we should and will learn from this experience, and we will invite the community to participate in this discussion."