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Minneapolis po­lice un­ion lead­ers told state sena­tors Wednes­day they felt a­ban­doned by city lead­ers dur­ing the ci­vil un­rest in May that followed the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed in police custody.

“This needs to be talked about. These of­fic­ers need to be de­fend­ed,” Minneapolis Police Sgt. Anna Hed­berg said as she de­scribed watch­ing the city’s Third Pre­cinct police station burn.

Two Republican-led Senate com­mit­tees on Wednes­day held the last in a se­ries of hear­ings focused on the lawlessness of the protests and the responses of city and state leaders, which have come under sharp criticism from President Donald Trump and state GOP leaders.

Three Minneapolis Police Federation board mem­bers told legis­la­tors that city and state lead­er­ship failed by not send­ing in other law en­force­ment ag­en­cies earli­er to help Minneapolis po­lice.

Officer Rich Walker said “pol­i­tics got in the way” of the re­sponse of city and state officials. He described being de­mor­al­iz­ed watching the Third Pre­cinct build­ing being a­ban­doned, o­ver­run by pro­test­ers and set ablaze on May 28, three nights after Floyd’s death.

Walker, who is Black, said union members told him around noon that day that the department was giving up the Third Precinct. He went to pick up equipment and described the scene of police employees unplugging computers and taking down pictures. “That is the straw that broke our department’s back,” he said.

Hed­berg, Walker and Federation Vice Pres­i­dent Sgt. Sherral Schmidt, who also testified Wednes­day, have previously con­demned the actions of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Gov. Tim Walz during the several nights of rioting, arson and vandalism that accompanied peaceful protests sparked by Floyd’s death.

Frey said in a statement Wednesday that if he had ordered police to remain at the precinct, there would have been hand-to-hand combat, injuries or worse. “So instead, we prioritized de-escalation at the Third Precinct by reducing the number of officers outside the building and reallocating them to neighborhoods and community that badly needed the support,” he said.

A spokesman for Walz on Wednesday defended the governor’s actions on the night the Minneapolis police station was set ablaze, which occurred several hours before the State Patrol and the National Guard arrived at the station.

“The only decision Governor Walz made involving the 3rd Precinct was the mission he ordered to reclaim the building early Friday morning after it was abandoned Thursday night,” spokesman Teddy Tschann said in a statement, noting that the governor assumed operational control of the situation after the police station was lost.

In past me­di­a inter­views, the police union leaders have been joined by police un­ion Pres­i­dent Lt. Bob Kroll, who did not par­tici­pate in Wednesday’s hearing.

In a “CBS This Morning” interview last month, Kroll called the cellphone video that showed ex-officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck “horrific.” But he denied there was systemic racism on the force. Kroll, long a controversial figure, took the stage at a Minneapolis rally with Trump in October, drawing crit­i­cism for pulling the union into partisan politics. He also has been a staunch supporter of the rights of officers ac­cused of mis­con­duct.

The Senate hear­ing took place as Republican and DFL lawmakers are in talks to forge a package of po­lice re­forms in response to Floyd’s death and the deaths of other Black Minnesotans at the hands of police. Some Democrats have criticized the GOP’s focus on local leaders’ response to the civil unrest rather than the police actions that prompted it.

Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, said the Senate hear­ings have given only one side of the sto­ry. They neither addressed how Floyd died nor the need to tackle struc­tur­al rac­ism and po­lice re­form, she said. She also lamented the absence of witnesses who could address those issues.

Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said he reached out to DFL legis­la­tors to sug­gest local com­muni­ty mem­bers to tes­ti­fy. “I was not giv­en any names,” he said.

Earlier Senate hearings have been largely fo­cused on property damage and oth­er crim­i­nal be­hav­ior dur­ing riots. Meanwhile, several hearings in the DFL-led House since Floyd’s death have centered on police accountability proposals.

While legislators seek an agreement in the on­go­ing spe­cial ses­sion, the Minneapolis City Council is con­sid­er­ing a plan to end the current Po­lice De­part­ment and re­plac­e it with what they are calling a “holistic, public health-oriented approach” to safety.

Staff writer Liz Navratil contributed to this report.

Jes­sie Van Berkel • 651-925-5044