In his first substantial comments since the killing of George Floyd, fiery Minneapolis police union president Lt. Bob Kroll blasted the city's handling of the ensuing riots in a letter to the rank-and-file, in which he told officers that they were being made "scapegoats" for the continued violence.
"No one with the exception of us is willing to recognize and acknowledge the extreme bravery you have displayed through this riot," said Kroll's letter, which seems to channel the frustration of some officers who feel abandoned by the administration and City Hall. "I commend you for the excellent police work you are doing in keeping your co-workers and others safe during what everyone except us refuses to call a riot. You've turned the tide of the largest scale riot that Minneapolis has ever seen."
Kroll, who represents more than 800 Minneapolis and park police, went on to accuse Mayor Jacob Frey, Gov. Tim Walz and other leaders of refusing to "acknowledge the work of MPD" and saying they "continually shift blame to it."
"It is despicable behavior," Kroll wrote. "How our command staff can tolerate it and live with themselves I do not know."
He continued by writing that he had reached out to Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka to discuss deploying more Minnesota National Guard troops on city streets and has spoken with other law enforcement leaders across the country to "push our messaging on a national level." He added that he was also working with the union's attorneys to help the fired officers get their jobs back.
Kroll's letter later surfaced on social media, where it was widely condemned as divisive and rekindled questions for some about whether real reform will ever take root in the city's police force. Janeé Harteau, a former Minneapolis police chief and frequent sparring partner of Kroll's, called for him to resign from his post.
"A disgrace to the badge! This is the battle that myself and others have been fighting against. Bob Kroll turn in your badge!" Harteau posted on her Twitter account.
Frey echoed those sentiments in a statement.
"For a man who complains so frequently about a lack of community trust and support for the police department, Bob Kroll remains shockingly indifferent to his role in undermining that trust and support," he said. "His categorical opposition to reform, his consistent disrespect for civilian leadership, and his lack of empathy for the community have done more to undermine trust in police than any 'community activist' ever has."
Former Mayor R.T. Rybak chimed in on Twitter, and noted that Kroll's letter doesn't detail that Floyd died after being pinned by an officer.
"Wonder why people are angry?!" Rybak wrote. "We have some very courageous cops but you must now stand up to your leader jeopardizing all our safety."
Kroll has long been a lightning rod for criticism, both for his unabashed defense of officers accused of misconduct and because critics believe he represents a bygone era of policing. He did not return a call Monday.
He joined the department in 1989 and was elected to his first two-year term as union president in 2015, easily defeating longtime incumbent John Delmonico. He next won in another landslide against acting Federation treasurer Cory Fitch before running unopposed in the most recent election this spring.
Kroll was named in a 2007 racial discrimination lawsuit against the department brought by five black officers — including current chief Medaria Arradondo — after Kroll reportedly called then-U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison a terrorist and made disparaging comments about a gay aide to former Mayor Rybak in front of several other high-ranking commanders. Both Kroll and Arradondo have since said they have settled their differences.
Kroll most recently drew activists' ire when he joined President Donald Trump onstage at his rally at Target Center in October. Kroll was also criticized for pointing out the criminal record of Jamar Clark, who was fatally shot by a Minneapolis officer in 2015. In his letter to officers, he also alluded to Floyd's "violent criminal history."
Kroll's supporters have said he is misunderstood and has been unfairly vilified.
The fiery lieutenant seemed to suggest that he was directly involved in some of the operations at the Third Precinct before the station was overrun and burned by rioters. He said several missteps might have prevented the Third Precinct station's destruction by rioters, noting that reinforcements from the Minnesota National Guard didn't materialize until just after midnight Friday. He also said that officers weren't allowed to "use gas munitions and less lethal munitions to defend themselves."
"Given the right numbers, the right equipment, and your ability to use them [we] would have ended this Tuesday night," Kroll wrote. "I know this because I've been in charge of three separate riot situations when the police on the ground had the ability to make the tactical decisions to effectively end the situation.
"The politicians are to blame and you are the scapegoats," he said.
City officials pushed back on that claim.
Council Member Steve Fletcher said he thought "it was bad choices by Minneapolis police officers that escalated the situation to the point that it turned into a prolonged week of action."
Council President Lisa Bender described statements like Kroll's as "a huge barrier to change" and said she believes it undermines "the leadership of the really talented … police leaders within the department."
Libor Jany • 612-673-4064 • Twitter: @StribJany
Liz Navratil • 612-673-4994 • Twitter: @LizNavratil