St. Paul, MN - When city council member Dai Thao insulted the city's police department in a Facebook post, St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell had justifiably strong words in response.
According to Twin Cities Pioneer Press, Council Member Thao wrote the Facebook post after Black Lives Matter-paid protesters disrupted a St. Paul City Council meeting on Wednesday over an officer-involved shooting.
In the post, which was on his personal page, Thao said “I alone cannot change police policies, but if we work together, we can end systemic and institutional racism.”
Dai Thao appears to be grandstanding for votes at the expense of the city's police officers. Police officers everywhere were offended by his word, including Police Chief Todd Axtell.
In a post on his agency's Facebook page on Friday, March 24, 2017, Chief Axtell said:
“While I agree that community involvement is critically important to democracy and that everyone has a voice, I cannot begin to express how disappointed I am in some of Councilmember Thao’s words. His sweeping generalizations about our police department are untrue. They are also an insult to all SPPD employees — sworn and civilian — who work hard on behalf of the city.”
On Friday, Dai Thao issued a response stating that his post had been "mischaracterized" and that he would be issuing a full statement on Saturday.
On Saturday, Thao posted his clarifying comments, which just appeared to back up his anti-police attitude:
Protecting the people of St. Paul, while promoting equity, and preserving St. Paul's heritage, has always been my goal. I will continue to speak for the people, even if it's an "unpopular" statement to some of the powers that be in St. Paul. Voices go silent, when people in power decide to be quiet for fear of backlash from their fellow policy makers. I will ALWAYS speak for the people, shake up the status quo, regardless of how it affects me or my position.
Thao has been a vocal proponent of police reform and is running for Mayor this year.
Dai Thao's Facebook post also thanked Black Lives Matter 'organizers' for bringing our youth to city hall.' Thao is showing his true-colors by supporting a group which wants to abolish the police.
He also said that he could be counted on to arrange a meeting between the public, his council colleagues, the mayor, and the chief of police to talk about 'police accountability and restorative justice to the community.' Thao also bragged about his success at having officers removed from the Civilian Review Board.
Chief Axtell, who rose through the ranks to become Police Chief in June 2016 had another response for Council Member Dai Thao and his anti-police remarks. Again, on his agency's Facebook page, the Chief said:
“It’s also a fact that I don’t need Councilmember Thao to arrange my meetings. I meet regularly with community leaders, activists and people who have concerns about how we do our job. I respect their right to have opinions, concerns and ideas about law enforcement and their police department. That’s why most of these meetings take place out of the view of cameras and cell phones and aren’t something we publicize — because to me it’s not about publicity.”
Local Black Lives Matter leader Corydon Nilsson came to Thao's defense on Friday, stating that he didn't see anything in Thao's post that was disrespectful to police or attacked them. He also didn't see any 'sweeping generalizations.'
St. Paul Police Federation President Dave Titus said that he and other officers appreciated Chief Axtell's "strong words" and support.
The officer-Involved Shooting that was referred to occurred on March 15, 2016 when Cordale Handy was shot and killed after he pointed a firearm twice at two officers and after the officers repeatedly told him to drop the weapon.
It is wonderful to see a police chief standing up for his officers and not backing down under politics.
Dai Thao thinks that an anti-police attitude matches popular opinion and will get him elected. Please share your support for Chief Axtell, spread the word, and send the message that America support police officers.