Traffic citations are being expunged from the records of local Hispanic drivers.
According to a press release from Carver County Attorney Mark Metz and Chaska Police Chief Scott Knight, 40 improper traffic citations have been expunged as convictions from the public record.
“This recommendation serves the interests of justice because of a high likelihood former Chaska Police Officer Josh Lawrenz conducted traffic stops of certain drivers based on their Hispanic race. Such stops based on race violate the Equal Protection Clause under both state and federal constitutions,” stated the press release.
Lawrenz was placed on administrative leave in August 2014 and then fired, following a six-month investigation. Lawrenz’s wife defended him before the Chaska City Council, saying that his termination was an unjust “political firing.”
Lawrenz, a Chaska police officer for 14 years, filed a grievance to contest the action. During that 2016 hearing, an arbitrator found evidence showing Lawrenz “relied on racial and ethnic stereotypes as factors in selecting where to engage in stationary patrol and who to stop and search,” according to a Chaska Police Department news release, issued at the time.
The arbitrator noted that statements by Lawrenz, in addition to his patrol activity, “created a real and public perception that he was targeting Hispanic drivers solely because they were Hispanic,” the 2016 release stated.
Metz had previously dismissed all active citations. “Upon further review, Attorney Metz determined that it also serves the best interest of justice to dismiss those older traffic convictions that resulted in convictions before Officer Lawrenz was accused of racial profiling. Citing to the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct, County Attorney Metz stated it is a matter of public trust that prosecutions are never pursued due to racial animus,” the release stated.
While the Chaska Police Department remains vigorous in enforcing Minnesota law, Knight stated he will not tolerate discriminatory enforcement of law based on sex, race, age, creed, religion, color, or national origin.