Outside the boarded up windows and doors at WCCO-TV in downtown Minneapolis on Wednesday was a group of protesters demanding anchor Liz Collin resign.
The group's demands are the result Collin's marriage to Bob Kroll, the head of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis who has been the subject of similar demands to step down in the wake of George Floyd's death for what Minnesota AFL-CIO President Bill McCarthy "long history of bigoted remarks and complaints of violence made against him."
In a statement to Bring Me The News, WCCO-TV said "We agree with what Liz has said in the past," referencing a statement Collin released in November 2019 after her marriage to Kroll gained widespread attention.
"I'd like to speak to the question some are posing: Is it a conflict of interest for me to be a journalist married to the Minneapolis police union boss?
"My answer: No.
"I haven't reported on stories about the Minneapolis Police or the police union during the last two years.
"I should also note that nothing that goes on the air is the work of just one person.
"There are managers, producers, photographers, and editors. They all make up the WCCO team that delivers news our community can trust to be fair and accurate."
Kroll, who has been with the Minneapolis Police Department for more than 30 years and president of the union for about five years, sent a letter this week to officers, commending them for their work during the George Floyd protests. Kroll defended the four officers who have since been charged in connection to Floyd's in-custody death, saying they were fired from their jobs without due process.
Since then, social media has erupted with angry people using the hashtag #KrollMustGo, in addition to the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis Public Schools cutting ties with Minneapolis Police Department.
As a result of the ongoing calls for Kroll's resignation, Collin's social media pages have been inundated with comments – some abusive – about her husband and his role in city police.
WCCO-TV has taken measures to address the situation both during newscasts and online, with a statement saying: "WCCO-TV anchor/reporter Liz Collin is married to Bob Kroll. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, Liz has not reported on Minneapolis Police and Minneapolis Police Union issues for at least two-and-a-half years."
The Racial Justice Network, which organized the protest, posted a screen shot of a fatal shooting in north Minneapolis that involved Minneapolis police searching for a suspect. That May 20 story lists Liz Collin as the person covering the story, though her role in that story was reading the teleprompter, not diving in head first as the reporter.
The last time Collin reported on deeper police issues appears to have taken place in 2017, which is recalled in a November 2019 story by MN Daily.
"In June of 2017, Collin reported on the legal team of Jeronimo Yanez, a St. Anthony Police Officer who was acquitted of his manslaughter charges in the death of Philando Castile. Collin described how a legal defense fund from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association was paying for Yanez’s lawyers. The MPPOA is separate from Kroll and Yanez’s union, but two Minneapolis police officers sit on its board of directors. Kroll later defended a Minneapolis police officer in the media in a similar case to Yanez's.
"In perhaps a more flagrant conflict of interest story, Collin reported a 'look back' on Janee Harteau's five-year stay as the chief of Minneapolis police. Harteau had been requested to resign by Mayor Hodges, who one year earlier, called out Kroll for 'jackass remarks.' Kroll even started selling '#jackass' t-shirts. Somehow, despite this complex web of connections, WCCO allowed Collin to give the recap on what Harteau’s tenure was like.
None of these articles contain any notices about conflicts of interest, yet they were on TV and have sat online since."
A letter from the protest group to WCCO-TV calls Collin's marriage to Kroll "a clear and obvious conflict of public interest." The letter states:
"I'm writing you today to ask that you require your anchor & reporter Liz Collin to resign from her position with WCCO. This action is far overdue: her marriage to Bob Kroll, head of the Minneapolis Police Federation, is a clear and obvious conflict of public interest, considering Kroll's significant power over the police union. It's shocking that your network didn't take this step from the moment their relationship became known."
The protest Wednesday outside WCCO-TV lasted about 90 minutes.