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What did Bob Kroll say during his Twin Cities media PR blitz?

The controversial union leader held several interviews on Monday and Tuesday.
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Bob Kroll

After being almost silent for a month after George Floyd's death, Bob Kroll and his fellow union leaders have been conducting a PR media blitz this week.

The usually elusive Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis president met with multiple media outlets on Monday and Tuesday, giving interviews to CBS News, WCCO, the Minnesota Reformer, KARE 11 and MPR News.

Kroll however avoided an interview with the Star Tribune, having previously said he would no longer talk to them as they reported his marriage to WCCO's Liz Collin, and also pulled out of an interview with WCCO-AM's Chad Hartman.

Kroll's sudden willingness to be interviewed comes at a delicate time for police relations in Minneapolis and beyond, with Democrats in the city and in the state Legislature seeking major changes to how police departments operate after Floyd's death, meanwhile the metro area is dealing with a sudden spike in gun violence.

Joining Kroll for the interviews were police union directors Sgt. Anna Hedberg, officer Rich Walker Sr., and vice president Sgt. Sherrel Schmidt.

Here's a look at some of the key things they said during the various interviews.

They're no longer supporting Derek Chauvin

While his initial letter to members suggested that former officer Derek Chauvin was fired too quickly after Floyd's death, Kroll has said he no longer believes that's the case based on the videos taken at the scene, and said the union will not be representing him.

He called Floyd's killing "horrific," though he said he wants to see bodycam footage before forming an opinion on the actions of the other three officers at the scene, two of whom were holding Floyd down.

These officers have all been charged with 2nd-degree aiding and abetting murder.

Walker: 'We accept no responsibility of what's going on in our city.'

During the interview with WCCO's Jason DeRusha, the officers made it clear throughout that they believe it is police and city leadership who are at fault for the current situation, and that Minneapolis police officers and the union are being scapegoated for those failures.

When DeRusha asked whether officers and the union have a role to play in the alleged racial profiling and targeting of the Black community in Minneapolis, Walker said: "We accept no responsibility of what’s going on in our city.

"Our city leaders are the ones that are making the decisions day in and day out. We only protect our members’ rights. Now, they need to accept some responsibility for the failed leadership, the failed policies and the failure to give us the cops that our chief has asked of them for multiple years."

Kroll: 'I don't see race'

Kroll rejected any suggestion that he's racist when questioned by DeRusha. He did confirm he's still a member of the City Heat Motorcycle Club for off-duty cops, which has faced allegations of having white supremacist members, but he says they "do wonderful things" in raising money for officers and families in need.

In an interview with the Minnesota Reformer, Kroll says he doesn't see race, and doesn't believe Minneapolis police officers conduct their jobs based on the race of civilians.

"Our job is to respond to the crimes that we’re dispatched to and to stop and detain and arrest, if warranted, the person that committed the crime,” he said. "We don’t pick and choose that by race."

The union leaders also said they don't believe Floyd's death was based on race, with Hedberg noting there were two white, one Black, and one Asian police officers at the scene.\

"At no point do those officers sit and say, 'Eh-eh. Today’s not the day. That’s a Black guy. I’m not going to save this person’s life,'" Hedberg said. “We have saved more Black people than we have killed.”

The Reformer points out that 60 percent of police documented use of force since 2015 has been against Black people in Minneapolis, despite 20 percent of the city's residents being Black.

Kroll will not be stepping down

Since Floyd's killing, there have been protests outside the police union office calling for Kroll to resign, but he says this won't be happening.

He told MPR that he "considered it" in the midst of the riots, "if it would quell the disturbance," and says he asked board members if this is something he should do.

But he said they told him to stay, saying that "now is the time for stable leadership." Kroll has previously said he would step aside when he's next up for reelection in 2021.

Walker meanwhile told KARE 11 that Kroll is not "acting alone" in his role, saying "he is mimicking what our board is telling him from what our members are telling us."

"I think most people believe that he is acting alone and that's why he's villanized the way he is."

No need to change arbitration process

The likes of Mayor Jacob Frey and MPD chief Medaria Arradondo have called for reforms to the arbitration process, which they say is letting too many police officers fired for misconduct to return to their jobs.

Kroll says that the statistics don't show the cases where the union doesn't file grievances and result in negotiated settlements.

Walker meanwhile notes that the arbitrator is a third-party that doesn't take sides, and that there are "misconceptions" about the arbitration process, saying that only 50-53 percent of the cases go in the union's favor.

But some, like Arradondo, think 50 percent is too high a number, and want there to be less recourse for officers fired from their roles.

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