MPD union leader: Policy bars uniformed officers from appearing with political candidates

Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll.
Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll speaks with reporters in June 2018. Kroll said a new city policy prohibits his officers from appearing alongside President Trump during his campaign rally in Minneapolis in October.
Matt Sepic | MPR News 2018

Updated: Tuesday, 4:35 p.m. | Posted: Monday, 6:15 p.m.

The head of Minneapolis’ police union says a new policy prohibits officers from appearing in uniform alongside President Trump during his upcoming campaign rally at Target Center, a change he argues is motivated by political opposition to the president.

Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll said in an interview with Fox & Friends that police can attend the Oct. 10 rally to provide security, but they were informed they “cannot appear on stage. They cannot appear in the backdrop of the president.”

He said he heard about the change in policy last week, shortly after it was announced that Trump was coming to Minneapolis for the rally. In the past, Kroll said officers could get clearance from the police chief before appearing alongside a candidate. The policy goes into effect Tuesday.

“In the past, it’s never been a problem and Minneapolis has been a Democrat city for decades,” Kroll said in the Fox interview. “But because they’ve kind of turned their backs on the police and many other working people, we’ve shifted gears and we’ve been endorsing Republicans for the last several years, so now they’ve said no longer can you wear your uniform to support political candidates.”

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Kroll could not be reached for comment on Monday.

The issue caught the attention of former Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, who tweeted out the interview on Monday. He’s running for the U.S. Senate against Tina Smith.

Mayor Jacob Frey said on Tuesday that Minneapolis Police Department is “neither an ideological nor political entity. It's not Democrat. It's not Republican. And we want people to understand that this is a neutral department and we want the perception to be right in line with that vision.”

“This is a policy that Chief Arredondo has been working on for quite some time as a matter of fact,” Frey said. “So, the fact that it's coming forward now is actually just the conclusion of a whole lot of work over the course of the last year.”

Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo defended the policy in a statement Monday night. He said police and others who have sworn to protect the rights of everyone must resist the appearance of bias.

“For that very reason I reviewed our MPD uniform policy last year after I received several concerns from stakeholders regarding the perception of political bias and favor of the MPD when some of our employees endorsed political candidates while wearing the MPD uniform,” Arradondo said. “The new policy prohibits MPD employees from wearing the MPD uniform while endorsing political candidates. Trust is the cornerstone of our service and I believe this policy helps to strengthen that.”

It’s not the first time officer endorsements have come up.

Last fall, Minneapolis officers appeared alongside Republican governor candidate Tim Pawlenty in a campaign ad that pledged to enforce immigration laws. But Minneapolis officials expressed concerns that message was in conflict with Minneapolis’ status as a sanctuary city.

Kroll said in the past when former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, visited Minneapolis, officers were directed to stand behind him “against their will.”

Frey, a first-term DFLer, issued a strongly-worded statement last week after Trump’s rally was announced.

“While there is no legal mechanism to prevent the president from visiting, his message of hatred will never be welcome in Minneapolis,” his statement read.