Former Minneapolis police union President Bob Kroll is banned from serving as a law enforcement officer in three of the state's most populous counties — including Hennepin County, which encompasses Minneapolis — for 10 years, according to the conditions of a new civil settlement.
A pair of lawsuits filed by the Minnesota affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union accused Minneapolis police of unconstitutional brutality in response to demonstrations following the killing of George Floyd by an MPD officer. The Minneapolis City Council approved four separate settlements totaling more than $700,000 in October. The lawsuit named Kroll as a defendant.
The agreement stipulates Kroll cannot serve as a licensed police officer or in a leadership role in any policing agencies in the counties of Hennepin, Ramsey and Anoka for a decade. Kroll is also banned from being a board member, director, officer or staff member or member of an advisory committee of the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training — the state board that licenses officers — for that period. Kroll also agreed to come to court if he's subpoenaed in the case.
"I think preventing Bob Kroll from serving in law enforcement in these three counties, as well as in key leadership roles, is a step in the right direction in helping our city to move forward," said attorney and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong, one of the plaintiffs in the suit. "Kroll's leadership over the years, and his public comments defending police officers who have unjustly killed people, have only exacerbated tensions surrounding policing in our city."
Though Kroll is retired, Armstrong said she believes the agreement "sends a message to other law enforcement leaders that there will be accountability when they engage in behaviors that undermine progress in our city."
"This settlement achieves a much-needed goal: It takes Bob Kroll, a police leader and union head with a long history of racist and inflammatory statements, off the beat and out of police leadership in the Twin Cities metro for a decade," Teresa Nelson, ACLU of Minnesota legal director, said in a statement Tuesday.
Attorneys for Kroll didn't respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Kroll, who retired in 2021, became a lightning rod in the debate over police use of force and brutality through his brash and unwavering defense of Minneapolis officers accused of misconduct, sometimes in open rebellion against the city's elected officials. Kroll publicly aligned with then-President Donald Trump's brand of "Back the Blue" politics, appearing on Fox News and later on stage with the former president at a 2019 Minneapolis campaign rally.
In the days after the death of Floyd, Kroll defended the officers accused and eventually convicted of killing the unarmed Black man with communiques to the rank and file, and he became a target in the unrest and riots that followed. That summer, protesters showed up to his house in Hugo to demand his resignation and destroyed effigy piñatas of Kroll and his wife — former WCCO reporter Liz Collin — on their lawn, drawing criticism from those who said the demonstrators, which included then-DFL legislative candidate John Thompson, went too far.
Kroll has stayed mostly out of the public eye since leaving the Police Department in January 2021, though he's made some appearances in conservative-leaning media. He gave an interview alongside Collin last year to right-wing talk show host Candace Owens, where he lambasted Minneapolis and state leaders for their handling of protests and riots after Floyd, alleging they made police and the union as a "scapegoat" for the damage. Kroll more recently appeared in a feature on Alpha News, where Collin now works, reviewing Cowboy's Saloon in Lexington, Minn.
The agreement settles allegations against Kroll from two lawsuits — one from journalists and another from protesters. The suits, filed in federal court, accused the Minneapolis Police Department of targeting the reporters and peaceful protesters with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and pepper spray in the immediate aftermath of Floyd's murder.
As a lieutenant and union head, Kroll played an outsized role in determining department policy — both in his official capacity and "as an unofficial policymaker," according to one of the lawsuits.
"Kroll actively sows discord between rank-and-file officers and the command structure as a means of further amplifying his policy role and outsize influence over police culture," the lawsuit read. "What Kroll casts as his 'opinions' as Federation President have the practical effect of serving as policy guidance for officers."
During the riots, Kroll endorsed "rampant unconstitutional conduct" in his messages to union members that gave the impression that he was in charge, rather than the police chief, according to the suit. This included Kroll asking police commanders to loosen the restrictions on use of less-lethal projectiles and chemical agents, leading to more protesters and journalists being harmed during the unrest, the suit said. "In so doing, Kroll inserted himself into the command structure in a policymaking and advisory role inconsistent with his rank."
His statements during the unrest led to condemnations from other law enforcement veterans, including former Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau, who called Kroll a "disgrace to the badge."