Updated: 5:40 p.m.
Minneapolis police union president Lt. Bob Kroll has announced that he will retire at the end of January, citing the impact of his job on his family.
Kroll attracted support from his union, but also withering criticism and demands to leave from those who sought accountability of officers accused of brutality or were involved in fatal incidents.
“My plan had been to leave in May of 2021, which would have completed a milestone of 25 years serving on the Federation Board. After reviewing the bigger picture, it is in my family’s best interest for me to retire four months early,” Kroll said in a statement released by the union today.
He added that he will have served in the Minneapolis Police Department for 32 years this week.
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In his statement, Kroll also hit back at those who he said were second guessing, or worse, the efforts of police.
“The low point of my career has been watching this occur over the last three decades and how weak administrations pandered to armchair quarterbacks and didn’t fight for hardworking public servants who wear the badge,” Kroll said.
Kroll said Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis Vice President Sherral Schmidt would take over the office.
Activists and others repeatedly have called for Kroll to resign, especially after instances when Black men were fatally shot by Minneapolis police. Kroll himself has been suspended, demoted and sued over claims of using excessive force.
Following the news of Kroll’s retirement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said on Monday that his “initial reaction was just two words: good riddance."
“[Kroll] has overseen if not accelerated decimation of trust between community and police that are charged with protecting and serving community,” Frey told MPR News. “And at the same time, he's practiced this grievance-based approach to the state of relations."
Longtime activists in the Twin Cities also celebrated Kroll’s departure. Kroll was responsible for a “very bad culture” in the Police Department, said Michelle Gross of Communities United Against Police Brutality. The department, Gross said, missed many opportunities to discipline Kroll for misconduct.
“There remains a culture of impunity in the department that his departure alone won’t solve, Gross said. “The officers themselves elected him multiple times so clearly that shows that they are fine with the culture that exists and a part of that culture, so it’s going to take more than him leaving to solve this problem.”
Kroll was a strong supporter of President Donald Trump and repeatedly made statements that drew fire from community activists, including comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to a terrorist movement, said Nekima Levy Armstrong, who is head of the Racial Justice Network.
Levy Armstrong said city officials need to continue to press for officers who commit misconduct to be disciplined and for officers to live in the city. She said Kroll’s successor needs to be willing to work to change the culture of the department.
“Whomever takes on that position, they need to understand what they’re walking into and how deep the racial divides and tensions are within the city, and they need to be a bridge builder rather than a reinforcer of the status quo and abusive behavior on the part of Minneapolis police officers,” Levy Armstrong said.
Sheila Nezhad, policy director for a group, Reclaim the Block, said they’re watching to see if the new leadership of the police union makes any actual changes and whether the mayor will try to make deep changes to the police union’s contract.
“We need to move beyond getting rid of this one racist leader, whether it’s Bob Kroll or Donald Trump, and look at the whole system,” Nezhad said. “I’m wondering what MPD and the federation are doing to investigate any MPD staff involvement in last week’s attack in Washington, D.C., for example.”
In his letter to other officers, Kroll pointed to the contract as a point of pride, as well as the financial position of the union.
“I commend all of you who do this job under unimaginable circumstances and public shaming. You are real heroes. Hold your heads high and continue to do your job. The real people that live, work, and visit Minneapolis need you now more than ever,“ Kroll said.
A union spokesperson said the federation would not comment further.
MPR News reporters Brandt Williams, Jon Collins and Matt Sepic contributed to this story.