Minnesota's largest law enforcement association is defending the University of Minnesota Police Department and issuing a rare demand for a student to apologize for making public allegations about an encounter with campus officers that were disputed by dashcam video.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) on Tuesday criticized the U student for posting to his Instagram page a "factually inaccurate" account of his interaction with campus police. The student said officers racially profiled, cornered and questioned him without explanation or apology while searching for a robbery suspect.
"We're frustrated that an elected student leader would purposefully choose to stir further division against police on social media using false statements and fabrications," said Brian Peters, MPPOA's executive director.
Officers were responding to a robbery call just after 1:30 a.m. Feb. 1 when the dashcam video shows they stopped someone nearby they believed matched the suspect description.
The individual they stopped was a U student senator and person of color. In his Instagram post after the encounter, the student said he believed officers targeted him because of his race. He alleged squad cars "cornered him where he couldn't escape" and that two cops stood behind him with "hands on their guns" while he was being questioned. The student, who asked not to be identified because he has received threats and fears retaliation, declined to comment Tuesday.
"The only thing I could think of was: what did I do wrong other than the fact I was a brown man," the student wrote on Instagram. He then urged students to e-mail U administrators and regents demanding accountability.
The dashcam footage shows officers pulled up next to the student as he was walking and asked him if he had seen any activity in the area. "We just had a robbery of a person and you kind of match the description, as far as someone wearing a dark hoodie," officers said.
The student responded that he was walking home and offered to show the officers his student ID. The officers apologized, telling the student they believed him and that he was "good to go," the footage shows. The entire encounter lasted just over a minute.
U police released the footage last week to counter claims that officers "exhibited bias, racism and misconduct," the department said in a statement. University President Joan Gabel and Police Chief Matt Clark declined to comment further.
This incident highlights the tension between students and campus police. An external review of the U's police found that students and employees of color feared being harmed by campus cops, while officers reported feeling unappreciated.
U student body President Amy Ma said the student's allegations were shared widely on social media because "of distrust with campus police." But she added that this incident, in which the allegations "don't match the video footage of what happened," undermines students' efforts to hold campus police accountable.
"That does delegitimize some of these issues that are very real that students are facing," Ma said. She also criticized the police association for "targeting and naming one student."
Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234