‘Minor’ traffic stop leads to murder arrest

A traffic stop that led to the arrest of a murder suspect north of the metro area might not have occurred in Minneapolis, which has banned some traffic stops.

Chisago County Sheriff's Office/Facebook

A traffic stop initiated over a “minor equipment violation” led to the apprehension of a murder suspect in Chisago County, Minnesota.

A suspect was arrested Wednesday night on a third-degree murder warrant after being pulled over for an unrelated equipment violation. The driver was also found to be intoxicated. The Chisago County sheriff’s arrest of this suspect would likely not have been possible in other areas of Minnesota where police and prosecutors are taking steps to curb traffic stops and prosecutions resulting from them.

“In law enforcement, small things can lead to big things. Because a deputy enforced something small last night, your county is a safer place this morning,” the Chisago County sheriff wrote in a Facebook post. Some suggest that the wording of this post intentionally took aim at Ramsey County Attorney John Choi who recently announced that he will not prosecute felonies that result from low-level traffic stops.

Choi and his office claim that low-level traffic stops and prosecuting felonies discovered during said traffic stops is racist.

“In order to protect public safety and maintain the public’s trust and confidence, we must ensure that no segment of our community is disproportionately impacted by our practices in the justice system,” he said in a statement.

Choi defines “low-level” traffic stops as those related to vehicle lights, license plate and registration issues, and problems with windows, windshields or tint, according to the statement. The attorney says that due in part to stops related to these items, “Black drivers are four times more likely to be pulled over than White drivers” — therefore dismissing these issues is a matter of equity.

Minneapolis took a similar stance earlier this year when the Minneapolis police chief announced that “MPD will no longer be conducting traffic stops solely for these offenses: expired tabs, an item dangling from a mirror, or not having a working license plate light.”

Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association Executive Director Brian Peters said such policies are “absurd” and “a slap in the face to victims of crime.” Speaking on Ramsey County’s new policy, Peters remarked that “those [who] break the law won’t even get a slap on the wrist — they’ll get a high-five from the county attorney and be left to commit more, and more serious, offenses.”

Meanwhile, Minneapolis police are struggling to stay ahead of the crime they are allowed to stop as the city’s clearance rate, the rate at which crimes result in arrests, falls to 12%. This is well below the national average of about 45% for violent crimes and 18% for other offenses.