Man Arrested While Picking Up His Kids: 'The Problem Is I'm Black'

The female officer shown in the beginning of the video could easily have de-escalated the encounter by saying, "You're right, sir, you have every right to refuse to show me identification, and if you're just picking up your kids I'm so sorry to have bothered you. If you don't mind, I just want to walk with you to confirm that your story checks out so I can inform the 911 caller of their error. That way we can make sure this never happens again when you're just here to pick up your kids."

Or she could've said, "Sir, I totally see why this is confusing–a lot of people would think so. Let me try to explain. That totally looks like a public seating area, but it's actually private. Don't you think they should have a sign saying so? Calling me may seem like an overreaction, but technically they can ask you to leave. You're walking away now, so there's actually no problem as long as you're not going to go back. Are you? Okay, then we have no problem, have a wonderful day."  

This wasn't a high pressure, life-or-death situation. Is a bit of cordiality in service of calming things down too much to ask?

Her failure to do the right thing pales in comparison to the male police officer, who appears on the scene, abruptly informs the increasingly and understandably distraught father that he's going to jail–for what crime he does not say–and then, after the video goes black but audio coverage remains, proceeds to tase the man. "I didn't do anything wrong!" he cries, "I didn't break any laws and you tase me? That's assault!" Even after being tased, the man is incredulous that he will be arrested, and it's heartbreaking to listen as he realizes there will be no one to pick up his kids and that he'll perhaps miss work at a job that he needs to support them.

"Racist motherfuckers," he then tells the officers.

The City Pages explains what happened after the arrest. "The man was charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, and obstructing the legal process," they write, "but those charges were later dropped. On Twitter, the St. Paul PD's public information officers said no formal complaint has been filed in connection with the incident." A police administrator who sees that video, which Lollie's attorney brought to court, should not require a formal complaint from the victim to discipline the officers involved and acknowledge that they engaged in inept policing! 

Yet the police department–which held on to Lollie's phone, with the video on it, for 6 months–is defending the officers. "At one point, the officers believed he might either run or fight with them. It was then that officers took steps to take him into custody," a spokesperson said. "He pulled away and resisted officers' lawful orders. They then used the force necessary to safely take him into custody." Said the designated public employee union representative: "These three cops in the skyway, you couldn't get nicer individuals. This guy was acting like a jerk." 

That quote is via the Twin Cities Pioneer Press, which also interviewed Lollie. He was, he said, "trying my hardest to maintain my calm demeanor just because I know if I do anything outside of these bounds, they could really do some damage to me." He's right. "I really feel blessed I was in the skyway," he added. "If this had happened somewhere else, I might have ended up a little more hurt than I was." 

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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