The city of Chaska has placed a 15-year veteran of its police force on administrative leave amid an investigation of citizens’ complaints of racial and ethnic profiling.
The officer, whose name has not been released, was placed on leave about 10 days ago, about a week after members of the city’s Latino community met with Police Chief Scott Knight to air their complaints, City Administrator Matt Podhrasky said Thursday.
About 25 Latino residents of Chaska showed up at a City Council meeting Monday night, where they voiced concerns about possible racial profiling but also thanked city officials for responding to their complaints.
Podhrasky said the city is the process of hiring a private group to conduct the investigation, which should take about a month.
“We take these complaints very seriously,” he said. “It’s very important that we get the right answers [in the investigation].”
Adriana Cerrillo, a Minneapolis activist who accompanied the group to the council meeting and served as translator for some residents, said Thursday, “We would like to have a better relationship” with the department.
Cerrillo said she is pleased with the way that police officials and the council have responded so far.
On Monday night, several Latino residents addressed the council, including one older man who described the officer’s behavior as “unacceptable.”
“He arrested me … handcuffed me and threw me on the ground,” he said.
Another resident, Natalie Lopez, told the council that she had noticed the officer sitting in his car at the end of her block for several days.
One evening, she said, he pulled her over as she backed her car out of her driveway to pick up her son at day care. She said he asked why she didn’t have a driver’s license.
“I know I’m not supposed to do that,” Lopez told the council, adding that she has found it difficult to get one while balancing the demands of her job and family.
Lopez said the officer then asked her if she had her immigration papers with her. When she told him no, she said he told her he could arrest her on the spot.
“I don’t think he has the right to ask me if I’m legal here,” said Lopez, who told the council she has lived in Chaska for five years.
Lopez said that when the officer gave her a ticket for not having a driver’s license, he told her he wanted to send all people without licenses back to Mexico.
She said that the following week, he confronted her again as she returned home from work, arrested her and took her to jail.
She said he refused when she asked if she could get her medication for type 2 diabetes from her vehicle.
She said the jail staff tested her blood sugar level and took care of her.
“I hope you guys do something,” Lopez told the council. “I’m sorry, but please help us.”
Mayor Mark Windschitl thanked the group for coming to the meeting.
“It takes a lot of courage to come before the council,” he said. “But we are listening.”