Gov. Tim Walz said Sunday that he thinks Rep. John Thompson should agree to the release of body-camera footage from his recent encounter with the police, which Thompson alleged was the result of racism.
“I do believe that elected representatives need to be held to a higher standard,” Walz told WCCO.
“Yes,” he added when asked directly if the footage should be released. “Body-camera footage should be released in all situations, not just where it exonerates the police or if it shows something the police did wrong.”
Thompson’s July 4 encounter with the police has raised questions about whether he’s even eligible to hold elected office in Minnesota. The St. Paul Democrat was pulled over for driving without a front license plate and provided authorities with a Wisconsin driver’s license. According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Thompson has never been issued a Minnesota license.
The traffic stop also revealed that his Minnesota driving privileges had been suspended since 2019 as a result of failing to pay child support, an issue he has now resolved.
In November 2020, the same month Thompson was elected to the Minnesota House, he renewed his Wisconsin driver’s license, the Pioneer Press reported. New Minnesota residents are required to apply for a license within 60 days of moving to the state.
Additionally, state legislators are required to have lived in the district they are elected to represent for at least six months at the time of their election. When filing for candidacy, Thompson said he needed to keep his address private for safety reasons, and so his only known address is a P.O. box in St. Paul.
A month before his election, Thompson told the Pioneer Press that he had lived in St. Paul for 18 years. If that’s the case, then he lied to Wisconsin authorities when he renewed his license in their state a month later. But if he was being truthful about his Wisconsin residency, then he lied to his constituents when he presented himself as a resident of St. Paul.
Meanwhile, Thompson maintains that he was racially profiled by St. Paul police when they pulled him over last week. St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said he reviewed the body-camera footage and found that it “had absolutely nothing to do with the driver’s race.”
“The driver, an elected official who does not dispute driving without a front license plate, owes our sergeant an apology,” Axtell wrote on Facebook.
The state’s largest police union and several state lawmakers have called on Thompson to agree to the release of the body-camera footage.
“Thompson’s signature issue at the State Legislature was advocating for rapid release of police officers’ body camera footage. Now he’s blocking the public release of body camera footage of his own incident with law enforcement this past week,” said Brian Peters, executive director of the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.
The Minnesota DFL finally broke its silence on the issue Sunday night when Chairman Ken Martin expressed his disappointment with Thompson’s “recent actions.”
“We expect all of our elected officials, regardless of party, to not only follow the law, but to hold themselves to the highest standards. Whether they like it or not, their words, actions, and behavior are going to be scrutinized by the public,” he said. “As such it is important for people in positions of power and influence to model the type of behavior we expect from everyone. Rep. John Thompson fell short of that standard, and I am disappointed by his recent actions.”
Walz faced significant pressure last year to pull his endorsement of Thompson after the then-candidate made national headlines for his actions at a protest. Walz never did.