Minneapolis Park Patrol Officer Brian Woodfill may still face discipline for wrongfully and roughly arresting Libertarian Party candidate for governor Chris Holbrook last Thursday, but the day after the incident he was back at work per usual.
Or so we've been told by Dawn Sommers, communications director for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, who adds that Holbrook's arrest is now the subject of an internal investigation. (Those sorts of investigations typically aren't quick.)
As video of last Thursday's incident spread, many were left confused about whether Woodfill is a Minneapolis cop or a park cop, as the two agencies' uniforms are basically identical. But park cops like Woodfill wear different badges, drive differently labeled squads, and report to a whole different set of bosses than Minneapolis Police Department officers.
MPD spokesman John Elder tells us that in the wake of Holbrook's arrest, "Our Facebook page has blown up with all sorts of really negative things, and Twitter as well, people taking runs at the MPD for this incident when in fact it wasn't our officer."
In an interview with the Southwest Journal, Minneapolis Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto suggested Woodfill simply misunderstood the distinction between political free speech and marketing activities that require a permit when he decided to arrest Holbrook.
"At Thomas Beach and some other areas around the lakes it's pretty common that companies will come in and do merchandising, hand things out, solicit feedback from people, try to sell stuff, hand out coupons or VIP tickets, and that is prohibited," Ohotto said. "I think the officer just got off-track and had a singleminded thought that that's what was happening, without doing a thorough investigation."
Meanwhile, despite initial concerns about Holbrook's arrest costing him a day of petitioning and possibly keeping him off November's ballot as a result, the incident actually caused his popularity to spike.
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"We do believe that we have enough signatures for Chris," Libertarian Party spokesperson Cara Schulz tells us. "However, we need to go back and count carefully so we make sure we have the proper amount. We have to have 2,000 but it's preferable to have 2,500 to handle any challenges." (The signature-filing deadline is tomorrow.)
Schulz says many Grand Old Day revelers eagerly agreed to sign the Libertarian Party's petition when they realized the party's gubernatorial candidate was the guy so rudely arrested near Lake Calhoun.
"We had a lot of supporters come out [Sunday] and help at Grand Old Day, and several of them specifically came out to see if they could help Chris," she says. "There were others who came up to me and asked specifically, 'Is this for Chris Holbrook? Can I sign for other [Libertarian Party] candidates too?' There were a lot of people wanting to get Chris and other candidates on the ballot specifically because of the situation that happened last Thursday."