Is Minneapolis Police union president Bob Kroll a raging racist?
About 100 protesters marching through the streets of Northeast on Thursday night, calling for his ouster, insist that he’s a belligerent bully who belongs to a white supremacist motorcycle gang and lies to protect bad cops.
Kroll, a veteran of the Minneapolis police force, recently came under protesters’ fire for his comments supporting Officers Dustin Schwarze and Mark Ringgenberg, who were involved in the shooting death of 24-year-old North Side man Jamar Clark. Neighborhood witnesses claim Clark was handcuffed at the time of his “execution.” Kroll countered that Clark had been unrestrained and reaching for a cop’s gun, though he has not seen video footage of Clark’s killing.
As police union boss it’s his job to advocate for his fellow brothers in blue, which he does aggressively. In contrast to Chief Janeé Harteau's more community relations bent, Kroll is the hard-nosed old schooler. He believes the Fourth Precinct occupation should have been crushed at the beginning with arrests of anyone who tried to build a fire or pitch a tent on city property. He’s mad as hell that the officers guarding the precinct over the past 18 days have had to endure bitter snows, daily death threats and property damage.
“I think [protesters] see the police federation as a power and they want to take me out of that equation to eliminate part of that power,” Kroll says.
Protesters, however, believe that Kroll is a lot more insidious than a guy just doing his job. Organizers dug into his personal and professional history – one that has attracted much media attention over the years – to dredge up some unsavory lawsuits.
In 1993, Kroll was sued under claims that he beat up a 15-year-old black boy while calling him racial slurs. The city fought the suit and won in federal court with an African-American judge.
In 2002, Kroll took part in a drug raid of a Native American home. The residents alleged that he was among a dozen officers who beat and humiliated them throughout the course of a three-hour search, which included grabbing a pregnant woman out of the shower. The city ultimately settled the suit for $60,000.
In 2004, Kroll and a fellow officer were sued for fighting while off duty. The two were driving past the Art-A-Whirl festival in Northeast when they came upon a group of drunk people dancing in the street. In passing, one of them hit the officers' car. The suit alleges that Kroll and the other cop got out and started beating down on the guys in the street. The cops claim they were trying to make a citizen’s arrest when they were beset and beaten up by a group of 15 people. Ultimately, Kroll was suspended for 160 hours and the civilians received an undisclosed settlement.
In 2005, yet another lawsuit alleged that a group of cops, including Kroll, brutalized a pair of great-grandparents and their son during a house raid for an armed shooter. The residents accused the officers of kicking them, cussing at them, and forcing the son to listen to country music in the back of squad car. That suit was tossed in federal court.
The protesters also accuse Kroll of making racist comments and being associated with white power organizations. In 2007, a group of five black Minneapolis officers sued the city and former chief Timothy Dolan for building a hostile work environment in the MPD. Kroll wasn’t a defendant in the suit, but it singled him out for allegedly calling then newly elected Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison a terrorist and for wearing a white power patch on his motorcycle jacket. That black officers were ultimately awarded $74,000.
To this day, Kroll denies that he ever called Ellison a terrorist. The congressman says that when Kroll reached out in apology about six months ago, he maintained all the while that it was a false accusation. Kroll also denies that the police motorcycle club, City Heat, is a racist organization or that he would ever wear a white power patch.
Protesters aren't apt to believe Kroll's explanations.
"Kroll, we cannot have a blatant racist in this position, a position which he is paid for," says activist Monique Cullers-Doty, the aunt of 24-year-old Marcus Golden, who was shot and killed by St. Paul cops in January. "If he wants to be a racist he needs to do that on his own time, on his own dime. We know who he is and what he's about, and it's not acceptable to us."
Protesters marched from Bottineau Park to Elsie's Restaurant, Bar and Bowling Center, where they had word that Kroll was attending a fundraiser with Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. He was not there. Kroll earlier said he had tickets to the Wild game.