The St. Paul police should not be defending this arrest. If the basis for an officer’s arrest is failure-to-identify, it’s usually on very thin grounds. I frankly don’t think the laws are constitutional (although the courts disagree), and in this case there wasn’t any reasonable suspicion.
Here’s what happened: Chis Lollie had just gotten off work and was waiting on a bench in a skyway for his children. A security guard approached him and told him that the bench was for workers only. Lollie responded that there were no signs to that effect and refused to move. The problem here is that the skyway system in St. Paul is actually public property or subject to a public easement, so private security isn’t supposed to be rousting people. Lollie apparently had every right to be there and was justifiably annoyed that the guard was trying to make him move.
The security guard called the police, and when the police arrived, they asked Lollie for his identification. The problem here is that they were called out on a trespassing call, and there wasn’t reasonable suspicion of trespassing. Simply because somebody complains about something doesn’t mean that there’s reasonable suspicion of a crime. Police often have difficulty understanding this. They need to be critical of the person making the call and investigate the factual basis of their claim. If the officers had initially determined that this was a case of an overzealous security guard trying to harass a person from a public skyway, they may not have needed to confront Lollie at all.
When the police spoke to Lollie, he seemed calm but annoyed. He did refuse to give his name, but he explained his presence there. That would have been a great place to end the encounter, but instead the officers decided to arrest him for failure-to-identify. Apparently Lollie, thinking it was an illegal arrest, struggled and was tazed. All the charges were dropped after Lollie’s cell phone video was reviewed.
Nevertheless, the police have put up a “blue wall” and are refusing to admit fault, even though that fault is fairly obvious. The Police Federation President has said that Lollie was acting like a “jerk,” but I frankly don’t see that. Lollie was being confronted by security and then by police for no good reason, and although he argued with officers, he was still civil and collected. The fact that he argued with officers does not make him a “jerk.”
I don’t expect anything positive to come of this. I would hope that it would cause Minnesota to consider repealing their failure-to-identify law; Louisiana has a similar law, and it can be used in much the same fashion. These are bad laws that lead to bad arrests. Sadly, this is yet another.
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