Newly imposed restrictions preventing Minneapolis police officers from appearing in uniform in support of candidates at political events or in advertisements has the head of the officers' union alleging partisan motives based on the timing of the move.
Lt. Robert Kroll, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, said Monday that news of the ban was given to him Friday, one day after President Donald Trump announced an Oct. 10 rally at Target Center, and after Mayor Jacob Frey's statement that Trump was unwelcome in the city.
"My members are outraged," Kroll said in a televised interview Sunday with Fox News. "A lot of them want to be there; they want to be in the backdrop, have an opportunity to meet him. He's shown that he's a very pro-law enforcement president."
Kroll said that when former President Bill Clinton made a public appearance to lobby for his crime bill in 1994, uniformed officers were part of the setting, with some there "against their will."
Officers also wore uniforms in 2013, when Democratic President Barack Obama came to Minneapolis and spoke to an invitation-only audience about gun violence at the Police Department's Special Operations Center in north Minneapolis.
The outright ban on police in uniform in political ads or visibly positioned at events was put in place by the Police Department with Frey's approval. The shift had been under consideration since early this year.
The Police Department said Monday that the new policy goes into effect Tuesday.
"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," Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement.
Frey said Monday evening that he supports Arradondo's decision: "The Minneapolis police department is not an ideological or political entity, neither Democrat nor Republican," he said in a statement.
The new policy reads in total: "No employee shall make appearances in political advertisements while wearing the MPD uniform, or cause MPD trademarks to appear in political advertisements or be used in any other way that could lead a reasonable person to believe the MPD is endorsing a political party, candidate or campaign."
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeremy Zoss said that uniformed deputies might be positioned at the request of the Secret Service behind Trump while the president speaks, but he called that possibility unlikely.
The police department policy supplants the previous one, which allowed for some exceptions and advance notification: "At no time, shall any sworn employee appear in the MPD uniform in any media advertisement for political candidates, with the exception of the current elected Police Federation officials or their designee."
Further, it reads, advertisements must identify the federation official with a disclaimer that it is not an endorsement by the MPD. It also said that Chief Arradondo would have to be notified as well.
Kroll said he suspects partisan politics at play, especially in light of Frey's unvarnished disgust over Trump coming to Minneapolis.
Frey pointed out last week that since Trump has taken office, his actions "have been reprehensible and his rhetoric has made it clear that he does not value the perspectives or rights of Minneapolis' diverse communities.
Zoss said deputies are not allowed to appear in uniform for political activities, such as ads or campaign events.
Police in uniform in connection with politicking has created conflict at various times in recent years. In 2018, Kroll appeared in uniform at a rally for Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen, who lost his re-election bid.
DFLers argued that Kroll violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits state and local officers from engaging in partisan political activity. A police spokeswoman said in the department's view, Kroll's actions were not inappropriate.
A month earlier, Kroll was criticized by Frey and several City Council members after he and other uniformed officers appeared in a campaign mailing from Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration.
In the Fox interview Sunday, Kroll explained that Republican candidates enjoy the support of himself and others in law enforcement because DFL officials "have turned their backs on police and many other working people. ... We really embrace what the administration has done for law enforcement. Under the Obama administration, there was an anti-police rhetoric like you would not believe."