Mpls. Park Police Launch Internal Investigation after Wrongly Arresting Governor Candidate

Updated: 05/30/2014 3:05 PM
Created: 05/30/2014 11:33 AM
By: Megan Stewart

Minneapolis Park Police are apologizing after wrongly arresting a Libertarian candidate for governor Thursday afternoon. The department has launched an internal investigation.

Governor hopeful Christopher Holbrook was at Lake Calhoun around 2:15 p.m. with some of his party members, sorting literature and getting ready to get signatures for his upcoming campaign. Members of the park patrol approached them and said they were violating a park ordinance and they had called the police.

When an officer approached Holbrook and his group Thursday afternoon, he said they violated Park Board Ordinance PB2-15, which outlaws the use of parks for financial gain. He then asked the group to leave.

Andy Burns, the party's executive director, said he had been out getting petition signatures for six consecutive days prior to Thursday. He said he had walked past patrols several times and didn't have a problem before.

Holbrook and some of his party members filmed the exchange between the group and officers. See the video here.

One officer, identified by officials as Brian Woodfill, told Holbrook he did not want to be videotaped and to put his phone away. After Holbrook refused, the Woodfill then placed Holbrook in handcuffs and put him in the back of his squad car for a short time.

"It was very painful, and when I asked the officer to loosen the cuffs they were tightened (hence the screaming)," Holbrook wrote on his Facebook page. "Being detained in the back of that hot squad for 20-30 minutes with no air wasn't pleasant either."

The Libertarian group went to Nicolette Avenue after the incident to continue petitioning. They then returned to Lake Calhoun, where they ran into police again.

During the second incident, officers said they were violating the city ordinance by advertising at Lake Calhoun. Burns said the officer didn't seem like they knew what they were doing and demanded to know what ordinance stated they could not be out collecting signatures.

Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto apologized to Holbrook directly Thursday night, saying he determined "the officer erred and misapplied the ordinance."

Park police went on to say "The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Park Police Department understands and upholds First Amendment and freedom of speech in the parks."

The citation has been dismissed.

Ohotto announced Friday afternoon the department has launched an internal investigation into the incident. Any potential disciplinary measures will not be determined until the investigation is over.

Photo: Facebook

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