Lt. Bob Kroll, the president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, is facing backlash after he referred to George Floyd as a “violent criminal” and vowed to defend the officers involved in his death. In a letter to the organization, Kroll argued that the officers “were terminated without due process” and that he would “fight for their jobs.”
Former Minneapolis police chief Janeé Harteau shared the letter on Twitter and called on Kroll to step down as union president. She wrote that Kroll’s stance was “A disgrace to the badge! This is the battle that myself and others have been fighting against. Bob Kroll turn in your badge!” Senator Tina Smith described Kroll as “emblematic of the problems” in the MPD and called on the Department of Justice to “examine the pattern & practice of racial discrimination & violent policing at MPD so we can end it.”
The officer who was recorded holding his knee on Floyd’s neck was identified as Derek Chauvin. He was arrested and initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The charge has since been upgraded to felony second-degree murder. An independent autopsy ruled Floyd’s death was due to “asphyxia from sustained forceful pressure.”
The other three officers who were at the scene and did not intervene as Floyd struggled to breathe were identified as Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng. It was announced June 3 that all three officers would face charges of aiding and abetting murder.
This is not the first time Kroll has attracted negative attention in Minneapolis. In 2007, he was named in a federal lawsuit after he was accused of multiple instances of racial discrimination.
Kroll joined the police department in 1989 and was first elected as union president in 2015, the Star Tribune reports.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Kroll Referred to the Protests as a ‘Terrorist Movement’
In the letter to members of the police union, Kroll began by praising officers on the front lines. He described the protests solely as riots:
I write this on behalf of myself and your Federation board. First of all you have yet to be commended for the outstanding work that you have done this past five days. No one with the exception of us is willing to recognize and acknowledge the extreme bravery you have displayed through this riot. You have my utmost respect. Although I have not been visibly present, I am closely monitoring what is occurring. I commend you for the excellent police work you are doing in keeping your coworkers and others safe during what everyone except us refuses to call a riot. You’ve turned the tide of the largest scale riot Minneapolis has ever seen.
Kroll then went even further in condemning the current unrest. He referred to the protests as a “terrorist movement” and argued that police precincts lacked the necessary manpower to manage the situation:
What has been very evident throughout this process is you have lacked support from the top. This terrorist movement that is currently occurring was a long time build up which dates back years. Starting with minimizing the size of our police force and diverting funds to community activities with an anti-police agenda. Our chief requested 400 more officers and was flatly denied any. This is what led to this record-breaking riot.
In 2019, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo advocated for hiring 400 new officers by 2025, which would have nearly doubled the size of the entire force. The city instead decided to fund violence prevention programs and add fewer new officers than requested, KARE-TV reported.
2. Kroll Accused State Leaders of ‘Stripping’ Police Officers’ Ability to ‘Effectively End the Situation’
Kroll argued that police units needed to have more freedom to use tactical gear against the crowds and blamed state leaders for imposing restrictions:
Wednesday evening I spoke with the assistant chief when the siege began on third precinct. He informed me that National Guard troops and mutual aid had been enacted. What was held back was the National Guard to deploy until 0001 hrs. Friday morning. What was also held back with the ability for our officers to use gas munitions and less lethal mutations to defend ourselves. Given the right numbers, the right equipment, and your ability to use them would have ended this Tuesday night.
I know this because I’ve been in charge of three separate riot situations when police on the ground had the ability to make the tactical decisions to effectively end the situation. This has been stripped. The politicians are to blame and you are the scapegoats.
The precinct Kroll referenced was the police station that was overrun and set on fire on May 28. The building was evacuated around 10 p.m.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey later explained that the call to abandon the building was made to “both help de-escalate and prevent hand-to-hand combat.” Frey added, “The symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life, of our officers or the public. We could not risk serious injury to anyone.”
Frey has also taken to Twitter to condemn the statements in Kroll’s letter: “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.”
3. Kroll Wrote Floyd Had a ‘Violent Criminal History’ Without Providing Relevant Context
Kroll vowed to defend the four officers who were fired from the police force, including Derek Chauvin. Kroll also insinuated that Floyd’s history was relevant:
What is not being told is the violent criminal history of George Floyd. The media will not air this. I’ve worked with the four defense attorneys that are representing each of our four terminated individuals under criminal investigation, in addition with our labor attorneys to fight for their jobs. They were terminated without due process.
Kroll’s statement did not include details or further context about Floyd’s history, or the fact that his move to Minnesota had been part of turning his life around. Floyd was arrested in 2007 in Houston, Texas, for an armed robbery at a woman’s home. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, citing court documents, reported that Floyd was sentenced to five years behind bars in 2009 as part of a plea agreement.
After he was released, Floyd moved to Minneapolis. He worked as a security guard, a truck driver and a bouncer. Floyd’s childhood friend, former NBA player Stephen Jackson, told ABC News Floyd decided to move in order to get a fresh start: “He’d been through a lot of stuff in his life — a lot of stuff — and to make it out after you rehabilitate yourself and you’re intelligent enough to know I can’t go back to the same surroundings, because it’s going to bring me back to the same spot.”
The Daily Mail reported that Floyd’s other arrests, when he would have been in his 20s, were for nonviolent offenses such as drug possession and trespassing.
4. Kroll Was Named In a 2007 Lawsuit For ‘Racially Discriminatory Conduct’
Kroll was named in a 2007 lawsuit filed by now–Chief Arradondo and four other officers against the city of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department. The plaintiffs accused the defendants of systemic racism within the police department. You can read the full complaint here.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, Kroll was accused of calling U.S. Representative Keith Ellison, who is black and Muslim, a terrorist. Ellison, who is now the attorney general of Minnesota, is leading the investigation and prosecution in the Floyd case.
In the lawsuit, Kroll was also accused of making “discriminatory comments against a homosexual aide” to the Minneapolis mayor. The plaintiffs said three members of leadership, including the deputy chief of professional standards, were present when Kroll made his remarks but did not interject.
Kroll was also accused of wearing a “White Power” badge on his motorcycle jacket. The Pioneer Press reported in 2009 that Kroll was a member of City Heat, a motorcycle club for off-duty police officers. According to the Anti-Defamation League, group members have often “openly displayed white supremacist symbols.”
Kroll downplayed the federal lawsuit to the Pioneer Press in 2009 and appeared to mock the connection to the motorcycle club. “If there were any merit to the lawsuit, it would be able to stand on its own without the far-reaching stretch to an off-duty motorcycle club. Ever hear the phrase ‘throw a lot against a wall and hope something sticks?’” The lawsuit was eventually resolved and the city agreed to pay a $740,000 settlement to the five officers who filed the suit.
5. Kroll Has Said Trump Lets ‘Cops Do Their Job’ While Obama Had ‘Oppressed’ Law Enforcement
Kroll appeared onstage with President Donald Trump during a rally in Minneapolis on October 10, 2019. His t-shirt, with the words “Cops for Trump” on the front, was a form of protest; CBS Minnesota reported at the time that the police union sold the shirts after the city banned law enforcement officers from wearing uniforms while endorsing political candidates.
Kroll addressed the crowd before the president took the stage. He blasted the Obama administration for what he referred to as “oppression” of police officers. “The Obama administration and the handcuffing and oppression of police was despicable. The first thing President Trump did when he took office was turn that around. He decided to start letting cops do their job, put the handcuffs on the criminals instead of us.” Trump later brought Kroll onstage to thank him.
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