Edina Mayor defends officer's actions in wake of citation

Video of an African-American man getting stopped by an Edina police officer last Wednesday for walking in the street has sparked outrage online.

Although Edina Mayor Jim Hovland is defending the officer's actions, he said he's willing to take steps to make sure police protocols don't violate people's rights.

Video of the incident, which has now been viewed by half a million people, doesn't show what led up to Thomas being detained, Hovland told MPR News host Cathy Wurzer on Tuesday.

"(Lt. Tim Olson) saw a guy walking in the middle of the southbound lane and holding up traffic, and people were trying to duck around him," Hovland said. "The officer intended to get his attention, so he pulled up and swung around and came back, pulled in behind the guy with his lights on, and used a car horn to attempt to get his attention."

Hovland said Thomas looked at Olson but continued to walk in the lane of traffic, and that the officer again pursued Thomas.

The video started by showing Thomas being escorted by the officer, who was holding him by the jacket. Thomas is yelling, swearing and demanding to know why he's been stopped. The officer remained calm throughout the video.

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The officer's actions were condemned online and by local civil rights organizations.

Hovland said he understands that some people watching the video saw Thomas being humiliated and harassed, but that the officer's behavior was consistent with the city's protocol.

"From a protocol standpoint, he asked him to get out of the street, he didn't," Hovland said. "The next step in that protocol would be to use some sort of open-handed physical restraint, and that's what he was doing."

When city officials decided to drop the charges against Thomas on Sunday, Hovland announced they planned to review police protocols to determine how to better approach similar incidents more sensitively.

"I think what we need to do as a community is look at these practices and procedures and figure out how to make sure that people get treated with the proper level of respect," Hovland said of the decision.

In response, the city of Edina announced that they'll ask the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to investigate the incident and offer implicit and explicit bias training for officers. City officials said they will not remove Olson from his job.