The Minneapolis Police Department has become a toxic brand, and rightfully so.
The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, the Minneapolis Public Schools, the University of Minnesota, the Walker Art Center and other organizations have cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Department following George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police officers. (Floyd had allegedly tried to pass a fake $20 bill, a nonviolent crime.)
Key unions around the state are calling on Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Association of Minneapolis, to resign over his handling of Floyd’s murder, his history of inflammatory statements, and his antagonism towards communities of color.
Kroll seems to enjoy controversy. He spoke at a Minneapolis Trump rally last October, attacking the Obama administration for “the handcuffing and oppression of the police” and praising President Trump for “letting the cops do their jobs,” CNN reported. The Minnesota Spokesman Recorder, the oldest Black-owned newspaper in the state, wrote a follow up story: Trust level plunges after Kroll embraces Trump.
Kroll has shown no remorse or humility on behalf of his members over Floyd’s murder. Quite the opposite, he went on the attack. He wrote his members “calling George Floyd a ‘violent criminal’, describing those protesting over his death as terrorists and criticizing the city’s political leadership for not authorizing greater use of force to stop the rioting,” the Guardian reported (Kroll’s letter here.)
Kroll’s leadership position is a stunning indictment of the whole Minneapolis police force. This is the man the rank-and-file elected overwhelmingly as their union president — the public face for them and their values. They chose a leader who has undermined community trust and support throughout his tenure.
That means that the problem isn’t just an issue with three or four cops, it’s a problem with the department’s culture.
Minnesota’s white and privileged residents are complicit in the problem, too.
The city’s American Indian community has had long standing grievances with the Minneapolis police. The Black Lives Matter movement locally and nationally grew out of efforts to confront police brutality.
Yet the Minnesota State Legislature, local public and civic leaders, and the public in general have failed to respond to these legitimate calls for change for far too long.
That seems to be changing.
Leaders of some of the state’s largest unions are calling for Kroll’s resignation. It would be an important but symbolic gesture, as removing Kroll wouldn’t necessarily change police culture. Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy issued a blistering statement, which began:
Minneapolis Police Union President, Bob Kroll, has failed the Labor Movement and the residents of Minneapolis. Bob Kroll has a long history of bigoted remarks and complaints of violence made against him. As union President, he antagonizes and disparages members of the Black community. He advocates for military-style police tactics making communities less safe and the police force more deadly. Despite his conduct, Kroll was reelected with an overwhelming majority. If Bob Kroll does not value the lives that he is sworn to protect, then we can only expect more death under his leadership.
Now, instead of seeking meaningful dialogue or reform to make sure what happened to George Floyd never happens again, Bob Kroll is trying to justify this senseless killing and have the officers involved reinstated.
“Education Minnesota, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals, AFSCME Council 5, SEIU Minnesota, and the Minnesota Nurses Association have now all issued their own statements,” in support of the AFL-CIO’s statement, KSTP reports.
The utter breakdown in community trust will hit Minneapolis police officers in the pocketbook. Officers make extra money providing off-duty security services. The more businesses and organizations see a liability in associating themselves with Minneapolis police officers, the fewer such side gigs will come their way.
There will be community pressure to cut the police department budget, too. Organizations such as Reclaim the Block are calling for dismantling the Minneapolis Police Department altogether, redistributing the money to organizations that build and support community.