Minnesota lawmaker stopped by police claims he was profiled

Updated: 2:29 p.m.

A Minnesota lawmaker who was ticketed for a driver’s license violation is alleging he was racially profiled.

John Thompson
Rep. John Thompson
Courtesy of the Minnesota Legislature

The citation said state Rep. John Thompson, a Democrat from St. Paul who is Black, presented a Wisconsin driver’s license during a traffic stop in St. Paul over the weekend, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

His driving privileges in Minnesota were revoked because of a child support issue, said Doug Neville, a Department of Public Safety spokesperson. They were reinstated Wednesday “after taking care of the child support issue,” he said.

While Thompson has never held a Minnesota license, according to the agency, the state can still revoke driving privileges.

Thompson, who has said he’s lived in the capital city for more than 18 years, told the newspaper Thursday he had kept his Wisconsin driver’s license and had not switched it over to a Minnesota one. Minnesota law requires drivers to apply for a Minnesota license within 60 days of becoming a resident.

Police denied that Thompson was racially profiled. Spokesperson Steve Linders said Thompson was stopped Sunday because he did not have a front license plate. He said Thompson was not cited for that, nor for having a license from another state, but for driving after suspension.

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St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said in a Facebook post Friday that he watched body camera footage and spoke to the sergeant who made the stop.

“This stop, made at about 1:20 in the morning, had absolutely nothing to do with the driver’s race,” Axtell said in the post. “Simply put, the traffic stop was by the books.”

Thompson said he had “no idea" beforehand that his privileges had been suspended.

Thompson disclosed that he had been pulled over during a memorial Tuesday for Philando Castile, who was Thompson’s friend and was killed by a police officer in 2016.

“I’m still being profiled,” Thompson said in remarks shared on social media. “Matter of fact, I was just pulled over Saturday. The old pretextual stop. ‘You don’t have a front license plate.’ And I got a ticket, for my license. Anyway, I thought we weren’t doing pretextual stops here in the state. But we are. You can still get driving-while-Black tickets in the state."

Thompson belongs to the Legislature's People of Color and Indigenous Caucus, which is pushing for changes to policing laws, including an end to stops for minor infractions that activists say are often used to racially profile Black drivers.