Several hundred people, including black community leaders and AFSCME union chapter officials, demonstrated peacefully at the offices of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation on University Avenue NE June 12 to demand removal of the Federation’s president, Bob Kroll.
Kroll and Federation efforts to protect police accused of wrongdoing have been called out by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, City Council members, activists and others as among the reasons police reforms in Minneapolis have not been able to make headway. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced on June 11 that he is halting contract negotiations with the Federation, which he said has been historically “in the way of progress.”
Kroll was elected in 2015 as the president of the Federation, and was reelected by membership in 2017 by a 423-184 vote, according to officials quoted in a 2017 Star Tribune article. Critics point to his unwavering support of police officers accused of misconduct, including officers involved in police shootings; his appearance with President Donald Trump at a campaign rally last year; and his advocacy for the use of forceful methods in policing.
He was named in a 2007 racial discrimination lawsuit against the department brought by five black officers, including Arradondo, which was later settled. According to a 2015 Star Tribune article, he has also been the subject of 20 internal affairs investigations. Most recently, in a letter that he sent to union members that surfaced on social media, he called the recent uprisings the work of a “terrorist movement,” and decried city leadership for not providing more support and resources for the police.
Cherrene Horazuk, president of the University of Minnesota’s Chapter 3800 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), spoke at the demonstration. About Kroll, she said, “His cover-up for racism, making excuses for brutality allowing for oppression to take place—that is not a union and it should never be what is done in the name of union or a union contract.”
Horazuk said that when the chapter passed a resolution supporting the call for justice for Terrance Franklin, a black man killed by Minneapolis police in 2013, the police federation called the union’s state council and told them to “rein them in.” The chapter joins a number of chapters and unions statewide in passing resolutions calling for Kroll’s resignation, including the Minnesota Chapter of the AFL-CIO, Education Minnesota, and the Minnesota Nurses Association.
In interviews earlier in the week about transforming the policing model, Council members Kevin Reich and Steve Fletcher both brought up the union (see page 11) “Why does this union have actual supervisors in it, when typical labor relations would suggest … that goes against the negotiating structure and legal presence to begin with?” asked Reich. (The union represents police officers, sergeants, and lieutenants.)
Fletcher said, “The federation, which is not affiliated with the rest of the labor movement, is really hiding behind laws won by the labor movement and manipulating those laws to prevent there from being any consequences for some incredibly bad behavior. I can’t look people in the eye and say we could fire the bad cops. Chief Arradondo has been trying. He’s fired officers and they have been returned to the force by arbitrators,” he said.
Many of the speakers were critical of the city government. Nekima Levy Armstrong, who in addition to calling for Kroll’s removal and the recall of Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, spoke about the Mayor and City Council’s recent statements and actions. “They should have listened to us when we were there … showing up for the Minnesota Nice policy meetings … but they simply did not care about black bodies, and now they want to do all these interviews and act like they care, but we can see right through their lies and manipulations.”
“We got no one right down there at City Hall,” said Michelle Gross, who leads the group Communities United Against Police Brutality. We got a whole bunch of people that like to talk, don’t like to take action,” she said.
Other organizations sponsoring the demonstration included Racial Justice Network, Black Lives Matter Minnesota, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities Metro, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota.
(Editor’s note: Federation Attorney Jim Michels was later quoted in the Star Tribune as saying the union is willing to work with the city to change the police department.)
Below: Scenes from the June 12 protest at the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation. (Photos by Mike Madison)