President Donald Trump’s Minneapolis campaign rally scheduled for Thursday at Target Center has raised several political, policing and public cost issues that demand answers.
Let’s take them one at a time:
Should Minneapolis police officers be allowed to appear in uniform in support of political candidates? A new Minneapolis Police Department policy rightly prohibits that practice, though Lt. Robert Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, attacked the move as partisan. Last week, MPD officials, with the support of Mayor Jacob Frey, announced a new policy that states that “no employee shall make appearances in political advertisements while wearing the MPD uniform, or cause MPD trademarks to appear in political advertisements or be used in any other way that could lead a reasonable person to believe the MPD is endorsing a political party, candidate or campaign.”
In a statement, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said, “Trust is the cornerstone of our service, and I believe this policy helps to strengthen that.”
He’s right, but the city’s welcome directive led to another question:
Should the police union be allowed to sell “Cops for Trump” T-shirts online and at union headquarters?
Kroll posted an image of the T-shirt on his personal Facebook page. The red shirt has stars and stripes in the shape of Minnesota along with outlines of three different law enforcement badges. The $20 shirts sold out in less than 24 hours.
Kroll and other officers are well within their rights as private citizens to support candidates and to produce and wear the shirts. But officers should also keep in mind that they are public employees who are sworn to serve all citizens regardless of their political views. In a city already struggling with strained police-community relations, politicizing the police force is asking for more trouble.
Should the city pick up the public safety costs associated with the rally?
Frey wants the Trump campaign to foot the bill for $530,000 in additional costs the city estimates it will incur because of Thursday’s rally. In a series of tweets on Tuesday, the president said that Frey cannot “price out free speech.” His campaign threatened to sue the city over what it called a “phony and outlandish’’ proposed bill.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal recently told a reporter that the city has been in discussions for some time with organizations including the Twins, the Vikings and the Minnesota Ballpark Authority about sharing public costs of hosting games or major events. She said the city plans to be more proactive in the future with AEG, the management firm for the city-owned Target Center, about public costs.
A representative of Segal’s office told an editorial writer in a Tuesday e-mail that the city hasn’t previously charged campaigns for rallies held in the city.
Once the firestorm over Trump’s rally has passed, Minneapolis should establish a written, nonpartisan policy on cost reimbursement for political campaign events. Rewriting the rules on the fly is a bad look.