After 30 years with the Minneapolis Police Department — the last five as the police union president — Lt. Bob Kroll will retire at month's end. The often-controversial union leader said he's retiring a few months earlier than planned because it is in his "family's best interest."
It's also in the best interest of the Police Federation, the city and the community for Kroll to leave his job. It's a decision the Star Tribune Editorial Board had hoped union members would make for Kroll months ago. Rank-and-file MPD officers should view Kroll's departure as a chance to select a dramatically different, less divisive union leader.
Kroll, 58, joined the department in 1989 and was elected to his first two-year term as Minneapolis Police Federation president in 2015. He became a lightning rod in the ongoing discussions and demonstrations about race, policing and police-community relations. As the public face of the union, his comments on behalf officers regularly sent the wrong messages and set the wrong tone; he was too often more harmful than helpful.
For example, after the death of George Floyd while in MPD custody, Kroll's note to his members said he would work with attorneys to save the jobs of the four officers involved. Kroll's retirement announcement comes less than a week after the attack on the nation's Capitol, incited by President Donald Trump, to halt certification of Joe Biden's Electoral College victory.
Kroll was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, seemingly tone deaf to how his backing of the president was politicizing the department. During a 2019 Trump rally in Minneapolis, he stood with the president on stage wearing a "Cops for Trump" T-shirt.
As Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said this week, Kroll's departure will "create an opportunity for the incoming union leadership to improve its relationship" with City Hall and police administration. The new union head should certainly do that and more.
MPD needs a union president who understands community concerns about law enforcement and will work with the mayor and police chief on much-needed reforms. Federation members should select a leader who will help rebuild faith in the department and put public safety and service to the citizens of Minneapolis above politics.