The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 6, 2013

Gaylord defends officer against claims of profiling

GAYLORD — Fifty-nine percent of Gaylord officer Eric Boon’s tickets over the last year or so were issued to Latinos, who make up about 23 percent of the city’s population. The city’s other two full-time officers ticketed Latinos about 30 percent of the time.

What makes Boon different?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, which compiled these statistics, argues that Boon is selectively enforcing the law against Latinos. They say he camps in front of the Michael’s Foods egg-processing plant and runs the license plates of Latinos who work there, among other tactics.

Though the ACLU doesn’t use the phrase, it essentially accuses him of racial profiling.

Boon, who has worked in Gaylord since 2003, says he aggressively enforces traffic laws and knows the people who break them.

“I know the houses of people who don’t have driver’s licenses,” he said.

And if Latinos tend to be the people without valid licenses, Boon said, that’s not his fault.

The ACLU has not filed a civil rights lawsuit against Boon, though it filed one in February against the police department in an unrelated incident. Instead, the ACLU is continuing to watch the Gaylord Police Department, in part by continuing to make data requests.

Major changes appear unlikely.

The police reviewed Boon’s conduct and, with one exception, found nothing to merit discipline. That exception happened last summer, when dashboard cameras recorded Boon telling a Latino man he could make his family’s life a “living hell.”

Boon was given a written reprimand for the incident earlier this year.The small-town police department is frustrated by allegations that it believes were long ago settled and borne from the grudges of a disgruntled few in Gaylord.

“We have a good relationship with the Hispanic community,” said Donald Lannoye, the city’s attorney.

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