Lawmaker who wants rapid release of body cam footage chided by cops for withholding traffic stop video

There was no more vocal proponent for speeding up the public release of police body cam footage of interactions with police than St. Paul DFL Rep. John Thompson. The legislature’s in-house publication Session Daily included Thompson’s body cam bill in coverage of police reform legislation.

It’s a matter of not trusting the police to do the right thing, he [Rep. Thompson] said, noting the longer the police have video evidence, the longer they have the time to remix and edit it to make themselves look favorable.

“The public does not want the remixed versions of these videos put out. The public wants clear, unedited video,” he [Rep. Thompson] said. “We can tell when a video is paused and something is taken out.”

But the tables have been turned on Thompson, following a recent early morning traffic stop in which he accused St. Paul police of racial profiling. Now it’s the police insisting the first-term lawmaker approve the immediate release of the department’s body cam footage of the incident involving Thompson.

KSTP-TV reports the Minnesota’s largest police association didn’t hold back.

“Rep. Thompson’s signature issue at the state legislature was advocating for rapid release of police officer’s body camera footage,” MPPOA Executive Director Brian Peters said. “Now he’s blocking the public release of body camera footage of his own incident with law enforcement this past week. As a public official, it’s hypocritical and irresponsible. Constituents have the right to see how their legislator conducted himself, particularly when he made such strong claims about what happened during the traffic stop.”

After reviewing the officer’s video of the traffic pull-over, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell also blasted Thompson on the department’s Facebook page.

I was shocked to hear that driver accuse the sergeant of making the stop based on race. 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.

…Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books. What happened afterwards was anything but. I’m dismayed and disappointed by the state representative’s response to the stop. Rather than taking responsibility for his own decisions and actions, he attempted to deflect, cast aspersions and deny any wrongdoing.

As the pressure mounted on Thompson to approve release of the body cam footage, the Pioneer Press says Gov. Tim Walz has finally called on the lawmaker to be transparent and release the video.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz says state Rep. John Thompson should allow police to release body camera footage of a traffic stop that has placed Thompson’s credibility under a spotlight.

“Yes,” Walz said when asked directly by TV reporter Esme Murphy of WCCO Sunday Morning. “It’s Representative Thompson’s choice, but I’m a big believer … body camera footage should be released in all situations, not just where it exonerates the police or if it shows something the police did wrong.”

The onus remains squarely on Thompson. It should be an easy call for the legislature’s strongest proponent of the speedy release of body cam footage. After all, Thompson’s even got the police on his side of the issue now.