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Despite Usual Outspokeness Defending Actions of Officers, Minneapolis Police Union Tight-Lipped Following Justine Damond Shooting

Lt. Bob Kroll said he was vilified after publicly defending two officers involved in the 2015 shooting of Jamar Clark. (Image courtesy of CBS Minnesota).

The fatal shooting of Aussie native Justine Damond by a Minneapolis police officer last week has sparked strong reactions — from city Mayor Betsy Hodges, to Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbul to all those affected by instances of police brutality.

The union representing the city’s more than 860 police officers has been noticeably quiet on the matter, however, leaving many locals scratching their heads.

Since the deadly July 15 shooting, Minneapolis Police Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll has repeatedly declined to comment on the killing of 40-year-old Damond by Somali–American police officer Mohamed Noor, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. The move is unusual for Kroll, who’s typically outspoken on matters of policing.

The seasoned lieutenant said he would wait for the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to complete its investigation before speaking on the incident. Kroll said he was vilified after publicly defending the two officers involved in the 2015 shooting death of Jamar Clarke, 24, prompting his current silence on Damond’s death.

The union president said Hodges and former Police Chief Janeé Harteau also condemned him for his response to the high-profile shooting. Harteau wasn’t vilified when she came out a year later and “regurgitated” his statement, however.

“I was the hated [one] for it all,” Kroll told the newspaper, adding that he only came out in defense of the two officers after he spoke with their lawyers.

“In this case, I don’t know the facts of it,” he said. “[Officer Noor’s] attorney is handling it and the Federation is remaining silent. This is how our board and attorney decided to handle this one.”

In the past, the Minneapolis Police Federation has rushed to the defense of officers involved in on-duty shootings, and also recently backed a city officer charged with assault after a security camera caught him kicking a suspect in the face, the StarTribune reported. The union even issued a lengthy statement of support for an officer who shot a resident’s two dogs earlier this month.

Michael Padden, an attorney representing the dogs’ owner, described the union’s silence on the Noor case as deafening.

“It’s kind of surprising that they’re not saying anything, not even a quasi-supportive statement of ‘Wait until the investigation is done,'” said Padden, an experienced litigator in cases involving law enforcement.

The union’s lack of response on the matter also caught the attention of Black police officers. Department sources told the StarTribune that some officers have gone to Kroll with their frustrations over what they consider to be a lack of support for Noor, who is Black.

Despite the pushback, former union president Al Berryman said he feels Kroll is making the right move by staying quiet.

“Cops want you to support them, but when they do something that’s questionable … and you don’t have any evidence, you’ve gotta shut up,” Berryman said.

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