Time for Kroll to go — now

June 2, 2020 9:48 am

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes in May, killing him.

To understand the impunity under which the Minnesota cops’ union boss Bob Kroll operates, just read the letter he sent to his members this week.

He attacks police commanders (“How they can live with themselves I don’t know.”) He attacks the department’s civilian authorities (“despicable”) and by extension the citizens who elected them.

The coup de grace of the letter — so to speak — is when Kroll says he has a back channel to Republican state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, an insurance man from the Brainerd area.

“I gave a detailed plan of action including a range of 2,000 to 3,000 National Guard, their deployment allocations throughout our city and St Paul, in a phone meeting with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. The Senate was going to try and run the actions that the governor displayed he is clearly incompetent to do.”

Sorry, come again?

So Kroll goes around the chain of command — not just of his own department, but also the commander in chief of the National Guard — to give his super secret plan to the state Senate majority leader to use the National Guard to occupy the cities.

And then he tells his charges — in writing! — that the state Senate was going to put the plan in place.

As if the state Senate runs the National Guard. I covered the Capitol for a few years. Trust me: This is not the institution you want running the Guard.

Gazelka denied the scheme to MPR: “The governor is the commander-in-chief, and is responsible ultimately for the direction of the Guard. Never did I think I was going to usurp that,” he said.

I’ve written harshly of Gazelka, but in this case I envision him doing that “Minnesota nice” thing on the phone where you say “Uh-huh, well that’s interesting” while summarily ignoring the request.

But in Kroll’s world, he runs the show, so why wouldn’t the state Senate “run the actions” at his direction? He’s our poor man’s J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI director whose control over elected officials corrupted the United States government for decades and led to massive violations of Americans’ civil rights.

Some background on Kroll, in case you’re unfamiliar: The current Minneapolis Police chief Medaria Arradondo and four other Black officers sued the department in 2007 for racial discrimination and — small world — Kroll’s name came up in the suit. He is alleged to have called Attorney General Keith Ellison a “terrorist” and referred to an aide of former Mayor R.T. Rybak with homophobic slur. The suit also claims Kroll had a “white power” patch sewn into his motorcycle jacket. (He denies it all.) He once referred to Black Lives Matter as a “terrorist organization.”

But let’s assume his denials are true and set all that aside.

Like this week’s letter in which he all but admits insubordination, Kroll similarly revealed his character when he stood on the stage with President Donald Trump last year. Trump once referred to nations from which many Minneapolis immigrants arrived as “shithole countries.” He called our welcoming of Somali refugees here “a disaster.” Trump has encouraged extrajudicial killings and police brutality.

Standing on that stage with Trump was an act of contempt for the citizens of Minneapolis — especially our Black and brown fellow citizens — the very people that Kroll is sworn to protect and serve.

Similarly, his attempt to subvert his own command structure is an act of contempt for the law and departmental policies he is sworn to obey.

Enough is enough.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children