St. Paul police release body cam video of Rep. John Thompson's July 4 traffic stop

The St. Paul Police Department released body camera video Tuesday showing state Rep. John Thompson’s July 4 traffic stop when Thompson accused a sergeant of racial profiling.

Thompson presented his Wisconsin driver’s license during the stop, which has since led to questions about where the first-term Democratic lawmaker maintains residency. Thompson went to the Badger State and used a Wisconsin address to renew the license in November 2020 -- the same month he was elected to the Minnesota Legislature.

In the first 30 seconds of the interaction with St Paul Sgt. Peter Crum, Thompson brought up his occupation in the Legislature.

"I’m actually a state current representative in this district here, if that makes any difference," Thompson said.

"With a Wisconsin license?" Sgt. Peter Crum asked.

"Yeah, with a Wisconsin license. I’m state Rep. John Thompson," Thompson responded.

Crum then spent 14 minutes in his squad car before returning with a citation for driving after suspension. Thompson seemed unaware his driving privileges had been suspended in Minnesota, which happened in 2019 for unpaid child support that Thompson has since cleared up.

Thompson asked the sergeant why he was pulled over, and Crum responded that Thompson didn't have a front license plate on his vehicle and took off from a downtown St. Paul intersection quickly. That's when Thompson accused Crum of racially profiling.

"You profiled me because you looked me dead in the face and I got a ticket for driving while Black," Thompson told the sergeant. "What you're doing is wrong to Black men."

The initial interaction and the second conversation together last less than two minutes. A St. Paul Police spokesman said there was video but no audio for the first few seconds of the interaction because the body camera was buffering. Later gaps in audio were redacted because information was coming over the police scanner about an unrelated kidnapping case, police spokesman Steve Linders said.

Thompson said in a Monday evening statement that he supported the video's release. St. Paul Police ultimately released it after the city attorney gave the go-ahead. State law allows the release of body camera video either with the consent of the subject or to quell "rumor or unrest."

Thompson said in his Monday statement that Crum had done everything "by the book, but the issue is we need to rewrite the book."

As for why he brought up his occupation, Thompson said in his statement that he did so out of a "desire to be treated with respect and be able to drive away from this interaction safely."

Residency questions raised

The racial profiling allegations are separate from political questions Thompson faces over where he lived when he won elected office.

It's unclear what address Thompson used to run for the Legislature in 2020 because the secondary form he filled out isn't a public document. Thompson has not cleared up the questions about his residency, though he has said he'll get a Minnesota driver's license.

The situation falls into Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman's lap because Secretary of State Steve Simon says his office has no power to investigate such cases. Only if a registered voter makes a written complaint can the Secretary of State determine whether a candidate's listed address is legitimate, Simon said Tuesday.

Hortman said through a spokeswoman that no House ethics complaints have been filed and didn't say whether she would take up the matter herself. Thompson is in the House DFL caucus.

"She will be meeting with counsel Friday morning, unless an ethics complaint arrives sooner, in which case she would refer it to the ethics committee," said Matt Roznowski, a spokesman for the caucus.

Unusual courthouse exit

Thompson was in the Hennepin County Government Center on Tuesday for trial in a separate misdemeanor obstruction of justice case stemming from a 2019 incident at North Memorial hospital in Robbinsdale.

When jury selection wrapped up for the day, Thompson left using a back stairwell after his attorney noticed reporters and cameras waiting at the exit that's most typically used. Asked whether Thompson was avoiding questions, attorney Jordan Kushner said his client was focused on the criminal trial in the 2019 case.