In an interview in April, Lt. Bob Kroll, head of Minneapolis’s police union, said that he and a majority of the Minneapolis Police Officers’ Federation’s board have been involved in police shootings. Kroll said that he and the officers on the union’s board were not bothered by the shootings, comparing themselves favorably to other officers.
“There’s been a big influx of PTSD,” Kroll said. “But I’ve been involved in three shootings myself, and not a one of them has bothered me. Maybe I’m different.”
His comments underscore the rampant nature of police violence in the United States. The number of times police officers fire their weapons swamps the level of violence in most other countries, where authorities rely on nonlethal methods of coercion, persuasion, or control. Many police officers live with post-traumatic stress disorder induced by the violence associated with policing.
But not Kroll’s crew, he said. “Out of the 10 board members, over half of them have been involved in armed encounters, and several of us multiple. We don’t seem to have problems,” he said. “Certainly getting shot at and shooting people takes a different toll, but if you’re in this job and you’ve seen too much blood and gore and dead people then you’ve signed up for the wrong job.”
Kroll has been a central figure in the unfolding protests and riots following the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin. In a letter to union members on Monday, Kroll called Floyd a “violent criminal” and described the ongoing protests as a “terrorist movement” that was years in the making, starting with a minimized police force. He railed against the city’s politicians, namely Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and state Gov. Tim Walz, for not authorizing greater force to stop the uprising. “The politicians are to blame and you are the scapegoats,” he wrote.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minnesota AFL-CIO called for Kroll’s resignation, blaming him for his role in “[enabling] violence and brutality to grow within police ranks.” Police forces across the country have been escalating violence against demonstrators; driving vehicles into crowds; firing rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash grenades at largely peaceful gatherings; and even killing a man in Louisville, Kentucky.
— Minnesota AFL-CIO (@MNAFLCIO) June 2, 2020
The conversation, “The Nothing Sacred Interview Lieutenant Bob Kroll,” was posted to YouTube and Facebook on April 29, but has gone largely overlooked. Kroll, in the interview with STIM Radio host Maxwell Thomas Silverhammer, also discusses efforts by the mayor and city council to pressure the police and other unionized workers to forgo raises in order to help the city mitigate the budgetary crisis brought about the coronavirus pandemic.
“The first thing we said was OK, let’s see the budget, let’s see the city budget. And guys they’re pissing away, millions and millions of dollars to projects,” he said. “Like, you know, they’re giving $15,000 a year to the transgender coordinator of the city.”
“Guys they’re pissing away, millions and millions of dollars to projects … they’re giving $15,000 a year to the transgender coordinator of the city.”
Kroll said that he asked for an assessment of how much the city would save by postponing raises for the officers and said he was told that it would come to $410,000. That was an unacceptable sum, he said, because the city had been spending similar amounts settling claims of wrongful death by police officers. Kroll’s curious logic argued that the police should be held blameless for the costly settlements because the true blame rested with city attorneys, who didn’t properly defend police officers when they were sued after fatal shootings.
“They just paid a former Minnesota Viking $385,000 in an out-of-court settlement because he was tased when he wouldn’t leave a bar,” Kroll said, apparently not considering the possibility that the police could have declined to tase him. “The cops tased him,” Kroll said.
“You’re giving away money left and right in lawsuits, and you want us to take a bath? So forget it,” Kroll said, adding that the settlement with the family of Terrance Franklin particularly bothered him. Franklin, a burglary suspect, unarmed and 173 pounds, was found hiding in a basement by five officers who unleashed a dog on him. His family’s attorneys say an officer’s semiautomatic weapon accidentally went off, hitting two officers in the legs, and police responded by shooting and killing Franklin in anger. Police claimed that Franklin attacked an officer and took control of the gun, a charge the family’s attorneys said was absurd and contradicted by evidence. The city eventually agreed to a $795,000 settlement. Kroll said that a good friend of his had killed Franklin: “stepped up and shot him in the head at close range.”
“The Franklin one was near and dear to my heart because he shot two friends of mine, and a very good friend of mine was the one who shot and killed him in the confrontation,” Kroll said.
Kroll’s politics are not incidental to what is effectively a police riot underway in Minnesota and across the country. He’s one of Minnesota’s more outspoken supporters of President Donald Trump and took the stage with him at a 2019 campaign rally to praise the administration for “letting the cops do their jobs.”
According to a 2015 Star Tribune report, Kroll clocked at least 20 internal affairs complaints during his three decades in the Minneapolis Police Department, “all but three of which were closed without discipline.” There have also been several lawsuits against Kroll, detailing a long history of allegations of bigoted comments, including one that accused him of using excessive force against an elderly couple during a no-knock raid and another that accused him of “beating, choking, and kicking” a biracial 15-year-old boy while “spewing racial slurs.”
“The big buzzword they had was deescalation,” Kroll said of police reform efforts. “You’re supposed to, you know, even if you’re lawful in using force, it could look bad and give a bad public perception.”
Being trained not to use force is what’s causing officers stress, Kroll said. “Certainly cops, it’s not in their nature. So you’re training them to back away,” he said. “And it’s just not a natural — that’s where a lot of the stress does come from with the cops is not [having] the ability to grab somebody and say, no, step back or you’re going to jail and if need be, by force.”
Kroll also mocked the concept of procedural justice, an institutional reform meant to reduce police use of force through diversity and anti-bias training, saying that it’s an opportunity for people of color to get back at white men. He said that in his early days of training, the rule was to “ask them nicely to do something the first time,” then give them a “direct, lawful order” to do so, and if they refuse — “you make them with force, that’s how you get compliance.”
“Those days are over,” he said. “Now, it is ask them, love them, call, you know, give them their space and give them their voice. And this is what they’re training new officers. … Our cops went through that and they’re going, ‘Oh my God.’ Yeah, procedural justice. And the theory behind it being that, you know, the white men have oppressed everyone else for 200 years. So it’s their opportunity to get back.”
Minneapolis Police Officers Federation did not respond to a request for comment.
Correction: June 3, 2020
This article previously misspelled the name of Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz.