MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Paul Police officer who made controversial remarks about Black Lives Matter protesters has resigned his position with the department, officials confirmed in a tweet Wednesday.
Last month, Officer Jeff Rothecker commented on a Facebook post about a Black Lives Matter protest on the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue bridge planned for Martin Luther King Day. In the comment, he encouraged drivers to run over protesters, and offered advice on how to avoid criminal charges. The comment was later deleted.
Rothecker’s resignation comes as protesters with Black Lives Matter in St. Paul have announced plans to protest the city’s Red Bull Crashed Ice event if city leaders did not take action against Rothecker.
Rothecker was placed on administrative leave after the comment was reported, and St. Paul Police opened an investigation into the matter. He later apologized for the comment and resigned his position with Minnesota’s police union.
A Black Lives Matter representative said the group is glad Rothecker is no longer on the police force, but they are disappointed he hasn’t been charged criminally. And the group said right now, protesting at Crashed Ice is not off the table.
“We want to make sure that we’re making progress,” Rashad Turner with Black Lives Matter St. Paul said.
Turner said it’s disappointing Rothecker was allowed to resign, instead of being fired for his Facebook post.
“With his resignation it keeps a lot of the information from the investigation from the public and that information is important because another issue we see between police and the black community, or just policing in general, is a lack of transparency, lack of accountability,” Turner said.
Through his union attorney, Rothecker today said “he apologizes for any damage that his statements have caused.”
“People are going to be forced to listen,” Turner said.
Black Lives Matter still plans to protest at the Red Bull Crashed Ice races. That event brings more than 100,000 people to downtown St. Paul, generating millions in the local economy.
Demonstrators want Rothecker criminally charged. But their demands go beyond his Facebook controversy.
“Our focus is on a big system, a system of inequities a system of injustice that we really have to try to dismantle. I can’t tell you that one thing is going to keep us from demonstrating, but I can tell you we’re willing to listen and we’re willing to talk,” Turner said.
Turner plans to meet with the police and the mayor’s office in the next week. If they can work out what he calls something “substantive” that moves towards progress, Black Lives Matter could call off the Crashed Ice protest. But at this point, it is still on.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman released the following statement on Rothecker’s resignation:
“I am pleased that Chief Smith has accepted the resignation of Mr. Rothecker and that he is no longer a member of the Saint Paul Police Department. I believe it was the quickest and most certain way to reach a final outcome.
“The Saint Paul Police Department is one of the finest in the country. The Department and Chief Smith are absolutely committed to strong relationships with the communities they serve. The actions Mr. Rothecker admits he engaged in were disgusting, harmful and out of step with the values of the Department and the community it serves.”
Rothecker’s resignation is effective immediately.