Mpls. NAACP demands accountability for ‘pedestrian mistreatment’ by Edina police

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The Minneapolis NAACP is demanding a formal apology and accountability in connection with the detainment and citation of a pedestrian walking down the street in Edina, Wednesday, October 12.  Cellphone footage of the incident was captured and uploaded to YouTube and has since gone viral on social media. In the roughly seven-minute video, Larnie Thomas, a Black man, is seen being confronted by White Edina police officer Tim Olson while walking on the side of the road.

(Below, YouTube video of the incident as recorded by Janet Rowles)

Olson can be seen holding onto Thomas by the back of his jacket and saying  “You’re walking down the middle of the street!” Thomas maintains he did nothing wrong and tells the officer, “You can’t just put your hands on me like that!” Many are citing the arrest as yet another example of police bias and harassment.

Thomas was eventually cited for disorderly conduct and pedestrian failure to obey a traffic signal and was released. According to police, he was never taken to jail, but to a shopping mall at his request.

“The response by Edina Police is unacceptable and warrants that further steps be taken to ensure accountability for police misconduct and a repairing of the harm that was caused to the individual and to the broader community,” said Professor Jason Sole, Chair, Criminal Justice Reform Committee of Minneapolis NAACP in a written statement. “Those officers need to be retrained and there must be accountability to restore public trust.”

City of Edina Mayor Jim Hovland also released a statement about the incident on Facebook. In the statement, he noted that the citation against Thomas will be dismissed:

Just before noon Oct. 12, an Edina Police Officer observed and stopped Larnie Thomas, who was walking in the lane of traffic on a busy city street. Thomas was detained at the scene. People across the country are expressing concern about how he was treated by the Edina Police.

Thomas was not taken to jail. He was driven to a local shopping mall at his request and released. The citation issued to Thomas will be dismissed. The officer involved was following established protocol. However, under the circumstances, the City will review that protocol and determine how to better approach this type of incident with greater sensitivity in the future.

We will work with the Edina community and invite other organizations to participate in this very important conversation. There are lessons we should and will learn from this experience.”

Janet Rowles, the woman who filmed the incident, explained what she saw and why she filmed the incident per the NAACP press release:

“I began videoing the incident because I felt that the pedestrian might be safer with my presence as a recording witness. There was absolutely no reason for the officer to stop him from walking. I easily passed him in my vehicle because he was hugging the right side next to the construction, literally walking on the white line that marks the shoulder. 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.

There is now much controversy over the time that elapsed between when the incident began and when I started to video. I remember it to be much shorter than the police state, but I feel this is somewhat irrelevant because he never should have been stopped in the first place. We share the road all the time with bicyclists, people opening car doors, etc. 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.

“His saying twice (on the video) that the pedestrian was walking down the middle of the street is an absolute falsehood. Also, I am disappointed to see that the officer who wrote down about ten words that I told him, managed to quote me as saying many, many things on the police report- some of which are completely untrue.”

The Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds maintains that the video fits a pattern of racial bias and abuse by the police. “Watching that video and seeing a black man being manhandled and emasculated by Edina Police was not only painful and humiliating, it was a vivid reminder that blacks are still too-often seen as second class citizens in the State of Minnesota and in this nation.

“At any time, our rights can be violated by police and then various laws and policies are used to justify their conduct, rather than to hold them accountable. It is sad to say, but that man in the video could easily have been the next #PhilandoCastile or #JamarClark, two unarmed black men who were killed by police within the last year. When will we say #EnoughisEnough?”

The list of demands by the Minneapolis NAACP appears below:

1) That a formal, independent investigation be conducted regarding this incident and whether any departmental protocols or state laws were violated by the officer(s) in questions. The inquiry should also include whether the civil rights and civil liberties of Mr. Thomas;
2) That Officer Tim Olson be suspended without pay, pending the outcome of a formal investigation into this incident;
3) That Edina Police begin collecting race and other demographic data during traffic stops and to use said data in reforming departmental policies and procedures;
4) A formal apology by the Mayor and Police Chief of Edina to Mr. Thomas and the public at-large;
5) Retraining of all Edina Police officers on implicit and explicit bias; and
6) Implementation and adoption of best practices from the report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

 

The MSR will continue to follow this story as it develops.