ST PAUL, Minn. — A St. Paul lawmaker didn't just tell the media his July 4 traffic stop was a case of racial profiling. He said it to the officer who pulled him over that morning at a downtown intersection.
The St. Paul Police Department Tuesday afternoon released the footage from Sgt. Peter Crum's body-worn camera, capturing his interactions with Rep. John Thompson, and DFL legislator serving his first term in the Minnesota House.
"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," Rep. Thompson said to Sgt. Crum at one point in the video.
"What I’m saying is that what you’re doing is wrong to Black men and you need to stop that!"
Sgt. Crum can be heard explaining to Thompson that he stopped him because he accelerated quickly from a stop light and his car's front license plate was missing.
"No front plate and the way you took off from the light back there," the sergeant explained.
Later in conversation Sgt. Crum added, "You can look at the stops I’ve made tonight, and you can see it’s not racially profiled."
There's nothing in the video that would settle the issue of whether Thompson was profiled. It was Thompson's impression based on his experience as a Black man in America versus the sergeant's flat denial that the color of Thompson's skin mattered.
But Thompson's critics have since moved on to the fact that he handed the officer a valid Wisconsin driver's license that was renewed last fall. As it turns out, Thompson's been a licensed driver in our neighboring state since the year 2000.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officer's sent a letter Tuesday to Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, asking him to consider charging Thompson with fraud or perjury for signing the license renewal form using a Wisconsin address.
In a statement released Monday, Thompson said he kept renewing his Wisconsin license because he thought he'd need to move back there someday to provide care for someone. The Minnesota Secretary of State's Office Monday confirmed that Thompson provided a St. Paul address inside District 67A when he filed to run for the legislature in May of 2020.
However, the local address Thompson provided to Sgt. Crum during the traffic stop is outside of District 67A. That would definitely provide grounds for civil action to keep his name off the ballot in 2022 unless he moves back into the district.
"The Minnesota House of Representatives takes allegations of member misconduct seriously," Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Tuesday in a statement staff provided to reporters.
Rep. Hortman said that she hasn't yet received any ethics complaints from fellow lawmakers related to this episode, but any that are received would be referred to the House Ethics Committee.
"I will work with counsel to thoroughly investigate the law and facts, compare the alleged misconduct to prior allegations of wrongdoing by members of the Minnesota House and the resultant consequences, and act accordingly."
Transcript of July 4 traffic stop
Sgt. Crum: unintelligible
Rep. Thompson: I don’t think I took off like a bat out of hell out of here. I just drove off.
Sgt. Crum: You got your proof of insurance with you?
Rep. Thompson: I do. It’s in my phone. Actually, I’m actually a state representative of this district right here, man, if that makes any difference.
Sgt. Crum: And you’ve got a Wisconsin license?
Rep. Thompson: Yes. Wisconsin license. I’m State Representative John Thompson.
Sgt. Crum: Okay. I’ll be right back.
Crum returns from squad car 14 minutes later, after printing out ticket.
Sgt. Crum: Okay sir. Sorry it took a little long, but, so there’s your license and my card. You’re suspended in Minnesota?
Rep. Thompson: No.
Sgt. Crum: That’s what the computer says. If it’s wrong, you have to deal with the DVS.
Rep. Thompson: Why did you pull me over again?
Sgt. Crum: No front plate and the way you took off the light back there.
Rep. Thompson: I’m too old to run from the police, man. You profiled me because you looked at 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. And there’s no way in hell I’m taking off with you behind me.
Sgt. Crum: It's on--
Rep. Thompson: You looked at me in the car. You looked in this car, and bust a U-turn, and got behind my car, and that’s the reason why you –
Sgt. Crum: It's, it’s on camera, sir.
Rep. Thompson: I know. I know. But what I’m saying is that what you’re doing is wrong to Black men and you need to stop that.
Sgt. Crum: No, it's--
Rep. Thompson: Thank you so much, but this ticket means nothing to me. No, no, I’m going to always have a great day. I’m saying you should stop racially profiling Black men in their car, sir. Stop doing that.
Sgt. Crum: I don’t racial profile.
Rep. Thompson: Yes, you were. Yes, you were. You saw a Black man driving this car.
Sgt. Crum: You can look at the stops I’ve made tonight, and you can see it’s not racially profiled, it's--
Rep. Thompson: You pulled me over because you’re profiling me.
In the end, Thompson wasn't ticketed for the missing front plate or for peeling out quickly from a stoplight. Sgt. Crum did issue him a citation for driving after Minnesota driving privileges had been suspended for falling behind on child support payments.
As it turns out even a person licensed in another state can have Minnesota driving privileges withheld for various reasons. Thompson has since caught up on his lapsed child support payments, so the privilege suspension has been lifted.
In the meantime, Thompson has a Zoom trial scheduled for Wednesday morning in Hennepin County District Court on a charge of obstructing the legal process for an incident inside North Memorial Hospital in November of 2019.
That day the hospital was placed on lockdown for what was described as a "brawl" by some authorities, after dozens of people arrived at the hospital in response to a young man's reported suicide attempt. Thompson's attorney said he was not part of any brawl and was only arrested after getting into a verbal altercation with an officer.