1-on-1 interview with Minneapolis Police Union Chief Lt. Bob Kroll, and how the union is responding to George Floyd's death

1-on-1 interview with Minneapolis Police Union Chief Lt. Bob Kroll, and how the union is responding to George Floyd's death Photo: KSTP.

KSTP
Updated: June 23, 2020 10:27 PM
Created: June 23, 2020 02:41 PM

Leaders of the Minneapolis Police Federation on Tuesday reacted to several topics regarding the Minneapolis Police Department and blamed "failed leadership" for the riots and violence in Minneapolis over the past few weeks.

The union's response comes a day after Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said George Floyd's death "was murder" and not a lack of training.

Arradondo on George Floyd's death: 'This was murder,' not lack of training

"I was horrified when I saw the Floyd killing on video," said Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Minneapolis Police Federation. "No one, including police officers in Minneapolis or any other city, should be above the law. To be clear: police officers who break the trust of the community and violate the law deserve to be held accountable for their actions."

The union issued a statement soon after Floyd died cautioning the public not to rush to judgment and saying the union would provide its "full support" to the four officers connected to Floyd's death, all of whom have been fired and charged.

Politicians and failed leadership, the union said, is why recent riots and violence ever happened in Minneapolis.

Sherral Schmidt, sergeant and vice president of the Minneapolis Police Federation, added, "We're here to set the record straight: Failed leadership let rioters destroy the city and businesses. But unfortunately, over the last three weeks, we've watched an ongoing barrage of media stories that continue to unfairly demonize an entire profession over the actions of a very few. I've had to explain to my children that they should still be proud of law enforcement work and it is to keep them and our community safe, no matter what someone shouted at a TV camera. The only way we can begin the work to rebuild relationships and strengthen communities is if politicians stop characterizing law enforcement as violent racists and demonizing the police. There is a great deal of work toward building a safer Minneapolis, but it cannot happen until politicians stop pointing fingers and bring us all together to move us forward."

"Politicians in Minneapolis pulled back police officers without calling in support from the state and that is the reason we have hundreds of burned businesses across the city. They compounded problems caused by the death of George Floyd by allowing protests to turn into riots," added Anna Hedberg, sergeant, and director of the MPF.

The union also responded to calls by some to defund or abolish police departments, saying it's not a serious solution.

"Crime won't be wished away, and we can't simply abolish or defund police departments. Politicians who suggest this aren't serious about solving problems in their community," said Rich Walker, officer and director of the MPF.

Minneapolis Mayor Frey, MPD Chief Arradondo, local leaders call on lawmakers to change police arbitration process

Local mayors, city council members and Arradondo have recently called for changes to the law enforcement arbitration system in Minnesota, saying it undercuts their authority and keeps bad officers in police departments. The union says police chiefs are the ones responsible for hiring and training and should take the blame, as should the politicians who helped create the arbitration system.

"What cannot get lost is that police chiefs are responsible for all decisions related to hiring and training. Police chiefs have the full authority to hire and fire officers and the Minneapolis Police Federation (the local union) has not been part of these activities. The Minneapolis Mayor and City Council have agreed, by vote, to every labor agreement which includes binding arbitration, and they can negotiate changes," said Kroll.

"The citizens of Minneapolis and Minnesota, frankly, deserve more from their political leaders than blaming the arbitration system of public employee unions. Every single public employee who belongs to a union is entitled to arbitration that has been developed over years of collective bargaining. Blaming a system that Democratic politicians have helped create and advocate for as the reason for problems ignores their role and responsibilities at a time when people want and need accountability," Walker added.

The union also said politicians have created a false narrative that the union defends any officer for any reason.

"Trying to create the false narrative that our union defends any officer for any reason is clearly not true and misleading. Approximately two police officers a year go to arbitration, and a neutral third-party decides on outcome," said Schmidt.

The Police Federation said it is willing to talk about union contracts but didn't state any specific changes it would support or oppose.

"All union contracts are negotiated between two parties, and we are certainly willing to have discussions about this process going forward. It's important to remember the contracts we have today were agreed to by city councils and union representatives alike for years. To blame only one side is simply leadership deflecting from responsibility. This proposed change to only one type of public employee union does not address the core issue of improving trust and simply erodes worker protection and due process," said Schmidt.

Schmidt added that all officers should be able to contest discipline before a neutral third-party.

In response to the union leaders' comments, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said, "I'm not interested in Kroll's arm-chair quarterbacking. However I will note that the Governor has repeatedly stated no city could have handled a crisis of this magnitude without support from other jurisdictions, and the full mobilization of the Minnesota National Guard was necessary."

In KSTP's one-on-one interview with Lt. Kroll he provided an email he had sent on May 29 to the Minneapolis Police command staff including Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. The following is a copy of that email:

"From: Bob Kroll 
Sent: Friday, May 29, 2020 9:01 PM
To: Arradondo, Medaria; 'Kjos, Michael'; Waite, Kathy; 'Fors, Erick'; 'Halvorson, Henry'
Subject: Several Issues

Chief, or anyone in Command Staff that can address specific topics below, please do.

I am again requesting the ability for the accused officers and their lawyers to view their body camera footage.  BCA policy is deferred to the agency policy they are investigating for.  As you know MPD policy has always allowed for officers to view body camera footage along with their legal counsel in advance of any statements taken.   This usually occurs soon after the initial incident.  I've been told we cannot see the video.   Please confirm or deny this, and let us know when viewing will be made available.

I've also inquired to the level of callback.  We have not declared a phase 1, 2, or 3 callback.  Officers are wondering for schedule purposes.   Are vacations being canceled?  Can you please update me?

Lastly and most important, I am concerned about the safety of our officers on numerous levels.

First there was a lack of communication. Many officers in 3rd precinct did not get the message to clean out their lockers or have ample time to do so.  I've been told there were seven officers that were trapped inside while the precinct was given away.  In conversation with Assistant Chief Wednesday 5/27 at 2015 hours, he told me the National Guard has been deployed.  I later learned that the mayor did not authorize deployment until midnight Thursday night, Friday morning.
If they would have been deployed initially there would've been sufficient personnel to secure the precinct.  Now officers who are already weary from being under siege all night were forced to go back and reclaim the precinct with assistance of the National Guard.
  
Our officers are severely understaffed and with the number of National Guard, still remain grossly understaffed to even manage the riots, let alone make much needed arrests, and continue patrol response to citizens in need.

The officers have lost faith in leadership that appears handcuffed by political power that despises us.  That was very evident with numerous examples by several at today's press conference.  Examples include no arrests, no mobile booking stations, restrictions on use of gas and less lethal.  At some point community engagement needs to end and law enforcement needs to take place.

Thank you for your time.

Lt. Bob Kroll
President POFM
1811 University Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418
"


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