comScore

Minneapolis police union responds to 'white boys' controversy

Bob Kroll finally found some racism.

Bob Kroll finally found some racism. Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

You'd think the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis might have more important things to worry about.

Like, say, the temporarily idled move to defund/disband/radically reform the city police force. Or the fact that a bunch of cops have effectively walked off the job: through last week, a lawyer representing police officers said 175 (of 850 total) city cops had filed disability claims since the spring and summer unrest, with another 100 "doing their best to hang in there and not leave."

Or Tuesday's surprise announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice would partner with the department on training officers. Or a violent year in the city. Coronavirus. Much to think about.

And yet, at some time these past few days, police union leaders found the time and emotional capacity to weigh in on the situation of Art Knight, the former deputy chief swiftly demoted after he was quoted in the Star Tribune on Sunday.

Speaking about efforts to recruit and retain a more diverse police force, Knight, who is Black, said with the same hiring and training programs already in place, "you're just going to get the same old white boys."

This amounted to an emergency for the police union, whose leadership team -- a group including Bob Kroll, sensitive man, and that woman who does not want to buy groceries in Minneapolis -- issued a letter to members condemning Knight. The letter, made public on Facebook by activist and former police officer Lisa Clemons, says Knight's statement is another example of a "lack of support from the [MPD] leadership."

"These racially charged comments do nothing but further erode the integrity of this administration and their ability to be racially responsible when it comes to decisions for the department," the letter reads. "Furthermore, it negatively impacts our officers’ abilities to police in diverse communities because it hints that these 'old white boys' are policing in an unprofessional racist manner."

Great point. Minneapolis residents had no reason to question the department's racial makeup and its treatment of people of color until... a throaway phrase that appeared... 27 paragraphs into a story printed October 18, 2020. Before that very moment, everything was honky-dory -- hunky-, sorry, hunky-dory.

The letter continues:

The Police Federation has requested a thorough investigation into the racially charged comments that have been attributed to Deputy Chief Knight. The Chief sent out an email apologizing for the statement and that the matter is being handled internally. We have heard from many in our membership they have zero faith this incident will be handled in a manner consistent with past incidents of “perceived” racism or “racially insensitive” actions. We believe that the accused has due process rights and that a thorough investigation by an outside agency is the only way this matter can be resolved in an unbiased manner.

And what an excellent use of everyone's time and money that would be. Be forewarned that when this union suggests a "thorough investigation," they damn well mean it. This is the outfit that stretched the follow-up into racist Christmas tree decorations out for at least 18 months

In a departure, the letter makes clear union leaders disagree with what Knight said, not just how he said it. The police federation supports "hiring the most qualified candidates," the letter goes on, "regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion, creed, or gender." That is: Diversity in and of itself has no merit, and we're happy to stick with the same old white boys, thank you very much.

The letter closes like this --

Racism of any kind has no place in law enforcement. The men and women of the MPD continue to proudly serve the citizens of Minneapolis daily despite the blatant, demeaning and seemingly intentional racist rhetoric the “leaders” of the City of Minneapolis continue to spew.

-- and with a suggestion that any police officers "impacted, offended or harmed by the comments" should file an ethics complaint against Art Knight with the city.

After all these years, Bob Kroll's police union finally found victims of racial injustice: white cops who read the Sunday paper.