“It is despicable behavior,” the president of the union of Minneapolis police officers said, a few days after the death of George Floyd. But Lt. Bob Kroll wasn’t referring to the actions of officer Derek Chauvin, shown on video with his knee on Floyd’s neck until he was dead, or the passive non-interference of three other members of Kroll’s union.
No. What was “despicable,” he said, was the decision of local prosecutors to charge Chauvin with murder. As for the citizens who took to the streets to protest Floyd’s killing, they were, Lt. Bob Kroll said, a “terrorist movement.”
Let me note two things about Bob Kroll: first he is a lieutenant which makes him a pretty high-ranking officer in the Minneapolis police department, and he can’t tell the difference between protesters and terrorists. Here’s the second thing: over his many years on the force, Lt. Kroll has been the subject of 29 citizen complaints. No wonder he wants those files kept secret and qualified immunity for officers kept on the books.
In Saint Louis, a new chief prosecutor proposed a special unit to investigate police misconduct, which drew the public suggestion that she should be removed “by force or by choice.” What would you call an advocate of removing an elected official “by force?” A terrorist? In Saint Louis they called the advocate a leader of the police union.
But there are loud voices on both sides, quoted, as were the union leaders, by our guest today Farah Stockman, and her colleagues at the New York Times.
“We are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department,” Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the city council said on Twitter. “And when we’re done, we’re not simply gonna glue it back together,” he added. “We are going to dramatically rethink how we approach public safety and emergency response.”
Jeremiah Ellison’s father is Keith Ellison, the former Congressman and current Minnesota Attorney General, the man behind the murder indictment of officer Derek Chauvin.
No wonder, Dale Belman, a labor relations professor at Michigan State University says, for police unions – for whom he sometimes consults – “A major role … is basically as an insurance policy.” Guaranteed backup in an era of mandated police lapel cameras and ubiquitous civilian smart phones with video cameras.
The union guarantee may give some peace of mind to its rank and file members, but it may also be at war with a new public campaign against racism and unnecessary violence in policing.
Farah Stockman is a Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter who works for the New York Times. She’s also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former columnist with the Boston Globe.
Farah grew up in East Lansing, MI and attended Harvard University. After graduation in 1996, she moved to Kenya to work with street children. With the help of veteran street workers in Kenya, she established a grassroots education program that continues to serve 200 vulnerable children each year.
In 1997, she entered the world of journalism by interning with a New York Times reporter in Nairobi. The unpaid internship turned into a paying gig after al Qaeda terrorists bombed the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. For weeks, Farah put her knowledge of Kenya to good use, helping an international team of New York Times investigative reporters cover the biggest story in the world.
Farah joined the Boston Globe in 2000, serving as a metro reporter, a foreign policy reporter and finally an Op-Ed columnist. Over those sixteen years, she covered crime in New England, the war in Afghanistan, the tsunami in Indonesia and many, many stories in between.
In 2014, she won the Eugene C. Pulliam Fellowship to write a series of columns about the 40th anniversary of court-ordered busing in Boston. In 2015, that series won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. In 2016, she joined the staff of the New York Times as a political reporter and then as a writer on the national desk. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts