St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has requested a “full review” of the tasering and arrest of a man in the city’s skyway last winter after a cellphone video of the incident went viral this week.
“In the last several days, a video of an arrest of an African-American man has led some to question the St. Paul Police Department,” Coleman said in a statement Friday. “While the incident occurred over eight months ago, the video raises a great deal of concern, especially given this summer’s shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Mo.”
Brown, a black teen, was unarmed when shot earlier this month by a white policeman in Ferguson, triggering violent protests and fueling racial tensions in that city.
On Friday, Coleman asked for the city’s Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission (PCIARC) to review the police officers’ handling of the skyway arrest, which played out the morning of Jan. 31 at a First National Bank lounge in downtown St. Paul.
The commission, traditionally made up of five citizens and two members of the police union, reviews all citizen complaints involving allegations of police excessive force, discrimination, poor public relations, and improper procedures and conduct.
Chris V. Lollie, who filmed his arrest and then uploaded it onto YouTube Tuesday, said he was waiting for his two children to arrive at preschool Jan. 31 when a security guard tried to kick him out of the First National Bank lounge. Guards called St. Paul police when Lollie refused to leave, and he was later tasered and arrested, charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process in the incident. Charges were dropped in July.
“I was just sitting down,” Lollie said this week, recalling the incident. The security guard “wanted me to move out of that area because I didn’t look like someone he wanted to sit in that area … I was completely within my rights to sit there.”
Lollie, 28, is black. At least two of the arresting officers shown in the video are white. A third officer is not shown in the video.
Lollie said he posted the video recently because police took his phone and only returned it July 31. On Thursday, St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith defended the officers’ actions, saying they feared Lollie might run or fight. Police alleged in reports that Lollie was uncooperative, loud and declined to identify himself, prompting them to use a Taser to arrest him.
“As is often the case, the video does not show the totality of the circumstances,” Smith said.
Meeting is Monday
In addition to allegations of excessive force and discrimination, the city’s Review Commission also reviews all cases involving officers firing a gun, as well as complaints referred to it by the mayor or police chief.
The commission then recommends a final disposition on investigations. It also recommends to the police chief, when warranted, any disciplinary action. According to its 2013 report, the commission reviewed 52 cases last year.
Coleman said there will be a formal meeting Monday with the NAACP, the African American Leadership Council, the St. Paul Black Ministerial Alliance, and St. Paul police officials to discuss the incident.
Jeff Martin, president of the St. Paul NAACP, said Friday that the groups need to work together.
“We all want safe communities, but the last group of people we want to be afraid of is the people that are supposed to be saving us,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Friday called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the incident, which it called “disturbing.”
Lollie’s approximately 5-minute video shows one, and then two officers following him through the skyway. Police reports show that officer Lori Hayne arrived first, followed by officers Michael Johnson and Bruce Schmidt.
According to her personnel file, Hayne was certified as a police officer with the department in 1996. She retired in June. She received 14 commendations and has no record of disciplinary action.
Johnson was certified as an officer in 1990. He has received about 40 commendations and also has no history of disciplinary action.
Schmidt was certified as an officer in 1989. He was orally reprimanded for a preventable accident in 1992 and another in 1998. He’s received close to 30 commendations.
Lollie said he filed a complaint with police Thursday, but a police spokesman said Friday that the internal affairs department hadn’t received a formal complaint from him.