Union: ‘Decorated’ cops showed respect in STP skyway arrest

The St. Paul Police Federation, the police union, is disputing the assertion that police officers were at fault in the arrest of an African American man who was sitting in chairs in the St. Paul skyway.

The video of Chris Lollie’s arrest in January, which was released this week (available here), has prompted a call for a review of the incident from Saint Paul mayor Chris Coleman.

In a statement released today, union president Dave Titus said he stands behind the officers involved.

The St. Paul Police Federation stands by the three officers involved in the January 31st arrest of Christopher Lollie. The officers involved acted responsibly, respectfully and in accordance with the high professional standards we expect from our members. “We do not choose what calls we respond to, and we do not have the luxury of having all of the information prior to arrival. The three very experienced and decorated officers responding to this call repeatedly attempted to determine the level of threat presented by Mr. Lollie and to deescalate the situation. The outcome of this arrest was determined by Mr. Lollie himself. He refused numerous lawful orders for an extended period of time. The only person who brought race into this situation was Mr. Lollie.”

The officers involved in this case collectively have over 70 years of law enforcement experience, received over 80 commendations, thank-yous or other forms of recognition, and only two reprimands. “Officers Michael Johnson, Bruce Schmidt and Lori Hayne are the types of officers any department would be proud to have on staff. Its unfortunate to see the professionalism of such decorated, dedicated officers called into question but we are confident in their work and stand with them.”

St. Paul Police Officers have tremendous relationships with the residents of St. Paul. Residents recognize our efforts everyday to help maintain safe neighbors throughout the city. Our officers work with groups like the St. Paul Athletic League, Safe City Nights and National Night Out to bring St. Paul residents and officers closer together. The Federation welcomes a review of the events on January 31st by the Police-Civilian Internal Affairs Review Commission (PCIARC) and feels confident such a review will continue to strengthen the relationships police officers already hold.

“Some of the Mayor’s statements regarding this arrest were inflammatory and could potentially and unnecessarily create an unsafe climate for residents and officers alike. The comparisons he makes do not reflect the already solid relationships that exist here and could be detrimental to our on-going efforts to build even stronger ties. The Federation looks forward to working with the community and continuing to bolster our relationships throughout the city.”

  • Sheriff Harold Franklin Cassel

    Here’s an image the First National Bank building posted on their facebook page back in ’09 of their seating area in the skyway. Is this the area in question? They state an open invitation below the photo for people to sit: “Need a quick five? Enjoy a seat on the skyway.” The image is still up today.

  • Sheriff Harold Franklin Cassel

    Now please tell us Mr. Titus, what “Lawful order” did Mr. Lollie ignore?

    • Sheriff Harold Franklin Cassel

      Disclaimer: I’m not really a Sheriff

  • Dave

    I think we’ve established that this is a public space. The guy had a right to be there. So why was he asked to leave? Racist security guard? And/or do we still not know the whole story?

  • ChickenTrain

    Well now.. I just can’t believe the union to which these officers pay dues would come out with some spin in their favor. Really didn’t see this one coming!

    • Dave

      To be fair, it IS the union’s job to represent the workers.

  • Ma Barker

    I’m calling “BS” on Mr. Titus’ comment about the pd not having discretion to choose what calls to respond to. They prioritize all calls all the time and many calls simply don’t get a response or get a very delayed response. If you have an automobile accident and request a police squad you won’t get one unless there is a serious injury or fatality. You can wait all day. They won’t come. Likewise if you report a burglery. Typically the pd responds to calls where a serious crime is in progress.

    Why St. Paul pd would chose to respond to a call about anyone sitting quietly in an apparently open, public sitting area is a mystery. What a waste of valuable public resources that could be used to catch real criminals and/or prevent actual crimes. Instead the St. Paul pd has foolishly put their already suspect reputation further at risk and set the city taxpayers up for a large discrimation payout.

    • Kassie

      And it is one thing to respond to the call, but why were 3 police officers called in? I promise if you call in people dealing drugs on your corner, you don’t get 3 police officers. You are lucky to get one.

  • StevenAppelget

    Reflexive defense by folks like Mr. Titus is part of the problem here.

    • kennedy

      As are reflexive calls of racism.

      To me it looks like all involved in this incident chose to behave in ways that escalated the situation. It sounds like the police were called in to investigate a report of trespassing and possibly a confrontation with a security guard. The report included a description. When the police encountered an individual matching the description, they attempted to ascertain his identity. This was not a random stop and frisk. There was a report from building security. The individual was not cooperative.

      According to the supreme court, there is some legal precedent for police requiring an individual to identify themselves.

  • From a previous story on this site:

    “Police arrested Lollie on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstruction of the legal process. But Smith said in a statement today that the charges were dismissed in July.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    “Trespassing”? “Disorderly Conduct”?? “Obstruction”??

    From all accounts the guy was just sitting there, in a public space, that was specifically designed an an inviting area for folks to just sit there for a while as evidenced by the FB post of that space (noted below).

    If he was, in fact, doing something illegal, why were all the charges dropped?

    • Dave

      We don’t have the guard’s account. It would be good to hear his side of the story.

      • Agreed 100%.

        Then again, why were all of the charges dismissed?

  • April Breck

    Sure, they very respectfully tazed him for no reason.