The Minneapolis police union on Monday endorsed Republican Jeff Johnson in the Minnesota governor’s race.
“Jeff is a proven leader of law enforcement,” said Lt. Bob Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis. “We don’t have to guess where he stands on law and order, training, support for officer pay and benefits.”
Johnson is a Hennepin County commissioner. Kroll said Johnson told the union he wouldn’t cut retirement benefits for police officers and wouldn’t support Minnesota becoming a sanctuary state, which would limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The police union, which represents more than 800 officers, has a 10-member union board that decides who to endorse each election after meeting with candidates. Kroll said the union invited Johnson’s Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, to the screening but he didn’t attend.
Walz said in a prepared statement that he’s been endorsed by more than 300,000 workers in Minnesota, “and I look forward to working with law enforcement to keep our communities safe.”
Earlier this year, the Minneapolis police union endorsed former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the Republican primary, but Pawlenty lost to Johnson. Four years ago, the union endorsed Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, when he successfully ran for re-election against Johnson. The union also endorsed Dayton in 2010 and backed Pawlenty in 2002 and 2006.
Johnson said Monday that, if elected governor, he would advocate for better law enforcement training through the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) board, and change policies to make corrections officers safer. He also vowed to not make any cuts to law enforcement pay and pensions if there are state budget cuts.
“I will stand with you when I’m governor,” Johnson said.
He also said he won’t advocate for “signs or little stickers in the back seats of state patrol cars telling people who are here illegally that they don’t have to cooperate with their police,” referring to Minneapolis city leaders adding placards to squad cars that list in Spanish and English immigrants’ rights when going to jail. The union opposes that.
“Those are the kind of policies that make regular, everyday Minnesotans question what in the world is going on in their state government,” Johnson said. “And they make law enforcement shake their heads and in some cases, feel unsupported.”
While the union represents just Minneapolis officers, the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police (MNFOP) represents about 2,500 current and retired officers throughout Minnesota and hasn’t yet announced who it will endorse for governor. The statewide union has already endorsed five Republicans for congressional races — Jim Hagedorn, Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer, Pete Stauber and Karin Housley.
Kroll was at the MNFOP’s endorsement announcement for Paulsen and was later accused by the Minnesota DFL of circumventing federal election law by appearing there in uniform. Kroll said at the time that he was acting not as a representative of the Minneapolis Police Department but as a union leader.
In August, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and several City Council members criticized Kroll and several uniformed officers for appearing in a campaign mailer for Pawlenty’s gubernatorial bid. And in 2016, then-Chief Janeé Harteau ordered Kroll to stop wearing his uniform during media interviews while representing the union.