Edina council hears criticism of policing in wake of video confrontation

The Edina City Council says it wants to listen to and address concerns brought after a video circulated widely of a white plainclothes police officer interacting with a black man.

The meeting Tuesday night was the first for the Edina City Council since Larnie Thomas, a 34-year-old African-American man was grabbed by a white Edina police lieutenant for walking in the street. Part of the incident was recorded on video and has since been viewed more than a half million times. It shows the officer holding Thomas by the jacket and, and when Thomas takes that off, his shirt. Thomas asks why he was being detained, and occasionally swears.

Thomas was later cited. The citation was dismissed a few days later.

Edina Mayor Jim Hovland opened the meeting.

"We're here tonight to listen," Edina Mayor Jim Hovland said. "It would normally start in the context of a public hearing we'd have people speak, but tonight we thought because of this incident that occurred last Friday that has all of us so concerned, we wanted to visit with you."

That "visit" lasted more than three hours, with dozens of speakers. Some asked for Lt. Tim Olson to be suspended or fired. Others wanted the city to take another look at police protocol.

Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said her organization brought up a number of issues, including adding more training for officers.

"We were glad to see you all responded," Levy-Pounds said. "But it is hard to see the response as being more than lip service, especially because you all have refused to apologize and acknowledge the wrongdoing and the harm that was done to Mr. Larnie Thomas."

The city asked the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to review the incident, but the BCA declined. Levy-Pounds requested that a third party from outside of Minnesota step in.

Edina resident Katherine Bass made a plea to the council to use the opportunity to look at issues of racial bias in policing.

"Plenty of young men of color live in this community. Wear hoodies and backpacks and move themselves around on their own power. My 14-year-old nephew is one of them," Bass said. "He's been stopped by police [while] riding his bike in this community. The only city he's ever lived in. He's afraid to interact with Edina police. Is this the best we can do?"

Bass complained that the initial report from the city noted Thomas had alcohol on his breath, but she pointed out the report says alcohol was not a factor in the outcome of the case.

The police chief was present, but did not comment during the public hearing.

Gabe Aderhold, who also lives in Edina, says he feels unsafe walking outside after dark because he fears he might be stopped by police.

"I hear sirens in my community and know that while others think they might be headed to make a situation better, I'm worried that it might get worse," Aderhold said.

Council Member Bob Stewart called the video disturbing and wrong.

"I hope it does not represent what we are about here in Edina, but as has been said, we can do better. I will say to Larnie Thomas, I am sorry that you were treated the way you were," Stewart said as audience members applauded.

Mayor Hovland said he plans to meet with Thomas.

The city collected contact information from people interested in a group to help address issues brought up in the video.

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