Police officer out after accusations of racial profiling

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 7:39 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Racial tensions have heightened in America in recent years and the Black Hills are not immune.

Last November, Rapid City Police Officer, Jeffery Otto was fired after the officer called into dispatch calling for a Mercedes Benz he thought was being driven by a young Native American to be stopped. When the officer found out that the driver was not Indigenous, he said the car didn’t need to be pulled over.

City Attorney for Rapid City, Joel Landeen says the Police Department took swift action to remove him from the force, “they have a lot of authority and responsibility, if somebody engages in behavior or thought processes that are not consistent with the police department mission or the City’s values, then they are not an appropriate person to continue in that position.”

Otto’s defense attorney, Rex Haags says Otto was just doing his job, “at the time there was heighten awareness because of these rings or people vandalizing, stealing cars at hotels, and unfortunately the suspects were young Native Americans based on evidence they had.”

This incident comes at a time when the Rapid City Police Department is working to improve relationships with Tribal communities.

“Whether or not the person was actually stopped or detained, or arrested, the very fact that... that was the basis for the concern, (and it) was not appropriate,” Landeen said.

Haags says racial profiling never occurred, and says in this case there was no victim, “if I follow you because I think you are a certain race, in my mind I think something, but I never do anything, I don’t pull you over, I don’t search your car, then it never gets there, it almost happened, but it didn’t happen.”

The City and Otto recently came to an agreement allowing Otto to resign in lieu of termination.

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