As president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, Lt. Bob Kroll has a couple go-to moves.
He thinks the city should have more cops. (More cops for Minneapolis means more union members for Kroll.) And he thinks the police are generally doing a good job, despite the various people who are trying to stop them.
This minimalist repertoire serves Kroll well in making his members happy. Whether it actually makes sense as a response depends on the occasion.
Consider this Star Tribune story about a swift rise in shootings in the city, much of it stemming from north Minneapolis. Through the first three months and 11 days of 2016, the city recorded 74 shooting victims, compared to just 40 during the same period in 2015. Of those, 55 were shot in north Minneapolis, which saw only 21 shootings during the first few months of last year.
So, something's up. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms suggests there are just too many guns out there, and they too easily fall into the wrong hands. That agency's trying to crack down on "straw buyers" who enable criminals to get guns. Makes sense.
Bob Kroll's got a different take. There aren't enough cops out there, he says. And the ones we do have feel they can't do their job right if everybody's watching their every move.
Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, blames the crime surge on a shrinking police force and greater scrutiny of police that has left some officers disengaged. The slowdown in policing has been noticeable.Kroll's assertion is the only official one from the city that appears in the story: The actual police department declined to comment on the crime spike.
But city councilman Blong Yang, who actually lives in and represents the North Side (and has taken heat for aligning too closely with cops) says Kroll's point about cops not doing their job because people are paying attention is worrying, at best.
In a Facebook post Sunday, Yang wrote:
"With all due respect, it baffles me that anyone, including police officers, can disagree with 'greater scrutiny of the police.' You should do your job and do it well, whether 800,000 eyes are watching or none. The idea of some officers disengaging is troubling.'"On the other hand, Yang does agree with Kroll's call for more cops, saying the size of the force should increase to keep pace with population growth. As a councilman, he's got a role to play in that issue, should it land on the council's agenda.
If Minneapolis does wind up hiring more cops, Bob Kroll would say the best way to make sure they're doing their job is to thank them and leave them alone.