Sgt. Jeff Rothecker with the St. Paul Police Department has today off. He might be getting many more.
Yesterday City Pages brought you the story of Rothecker, a 22-year-veteran with the St. Paul force, and his apparently ill-advised use of social media. In short: Local cop observer Andrew Henderson captured a Facebook post on the St. Paul Pioneer Press website, in which user "JM Roth" said drivers should feel free to run over Black Lives Matter protesters with their car, and could do so with impunity.
"If you hit someone," the user wrote, "make sure you call 911 to report the accident and meet the cops a block or two away and you can justify stopping further away because you feared for your safety since in the past people in this group has shown [sic] a propensity towards violence."
The message went on to say that the "idiots could try and sue you in civil court," but that the now-enabled, potentially murderous driver would stand a good chance of getting away with it.
Henderson did his homework, and turned up proof that JM Roth is Jeff Rothecker, a sergeant specializing in elder abuse. That accusation is being taken very seriously by the department, which placed Rothecker on leave within hours of City Pages' story, the Pioneer Press reports. Also taken aback was St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who released a strong statement yesterday evening.
"There is no room in the Saint Paul Police Department for employees who threaten members of the public," Coleman said. "If the allegation is true, we will take the strongest possible action allowed under law. Our officers have worked closely with protesters ahead of today’s event as well as during the lead-up to previous demonstrations, to ensure everyone’s safety, including those held during the Twin Cities Marathon, the Minnesota State Fair and last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day."
Worth noting: One passage there — "strongest possible actions allowed under law" — suggests the fallout from Rothecker's post might go beyond a simple firing, and hints at the potential for criminal prosecution.
This might not be Rothecker's first time exhibiting questionable tactics when it comes to street protests. Back in 2008, Julie Sandburg, a freelance photographer based in Minneapolis, tried documenting the mayhem of the Republican National Convention, which drew thousands of activists for anti-war and anarchist protests. Writes Sandburg:
"I watched and photographed as a police officer grabbed the back of the shirt collar of a protester who wasn’t doing anything that anyone else in the street wasn’t, dragged him down to the ground, and then proceed to spray mace at everyone. Including me."
Sandburg took a few crsytal-clear photos of the incident, including one straight-on, moments before she was maced, and identifies the cop as "Sergeant Jeff Rothecker, badge number 245."
The episode was captured on tape by The Uptake video site.
Rothecker formerly lived in St. Paul, but relocated to Cottage Grove, once telling the South Washington County Bulletin, "The same people I was looking for, I saw in Cottage Grove." Take from this what you will.
He attended Minnesota State University Mankato in the early 1990s, and got a master's degree in "Police administration/Leadership" from the University of St. Thomas in 2002, according to his LinkedIn profile. He was also a long-serving member of the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police, a nonprofit cop organization that offers a variety of services to its members. According to a biography on that site, Rothecker is also a combat veteran of the U.S. Army, serving from 1988-1996.
Rothecker had been listed as the "2nd Vice President" of the fraternal order; curiously, as of this morning, that position is listed as "vacant."
If Rothecker has suddenly been removed, or resigned from that organization, it will be interesting to find out if its offerings are still available to him. Among the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police's services to members is a legal defense team, available for both civil and criminal proceedings. We happen to know someone who might be interested.
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