Defund the Police? Refund the People!!!
About a half-hour ago I was sitting here in Beyond Repair with Steven and had a bit of a shock. Who stepped into the Midtown Global Market, looking around, confused, not sure where to go? None other than MPD Police Federation President, Bob Kroll. He soon walked off, looking for something. Intrigued, I left Steven in the shop and walked around the market looking for Bob. Was he searching for us? If not, was he hungry? Where would he eat?
It seems though, while I was gone, Bobby found his way to the shop. He came in, saw a stack of Sgt. Kroll Goes to the Office, took about four or five, and avoiding any eye contact or interaction with Steven of any kind, quickly walked out.
I’ve been extremely happy, and frankly somewhat surprised, at the overwhelmingly positive reception this action has elicited. Both from the public at large, as well as elected officials in MPLS city government. Furthermore, it seems the action has been effective enough to get back to Lt. Kroll, and drive him across town to what he refers to in the comic as our “shit-hole neighborhood!” But hey, art will compel you into worlds that, prior to exposure, one would never dare to venture. I congratulate Lt. Kroll for, once again, braving the wilds of South MPLS.
All this said, I feel it is important for me to make this public; after the release of Sgt. Kroll Goes to the Office many people have urged me to publicly state the fact that Kroll, MPD, and their allies could retaliate in some way. Maybe, maybe not. But I agree that it is important to state that this possibility is, in fact, logical to consider and on my mind.
As an example, after the production of the comic was made public, but not yet released, the car in the above photo parked directly outside our home one afternoon. Having constructed low-wattage radio stations in the past I was interested, but also confused, by the DIY antenna apparatus on the roof of the vehicle. Something was off with its construction and orientation. I took a photo and sent it to a friend who is far more knowledgeable in that area than I am. He stated that, while not definitive, his guess was that it was a “cell phone sniffer.” What’s that? Well, myself and the small group who organized the visit to Mayor Hodges house last November, on the night the police were cracking down at the 4th Precinct Shutdown, are well aware of what it is. Area journalists, through a FOIA request, were able to find out as well. It’s a device that can read your text messages and listen in to your phone calls. It’s a tactic that MPD used that night and what allowed them to meet us at the Mayor’s house in advance of our arrival. And who knows, maybe it’s what is on top of the van outside our home in this photo. Or maybe not.
All of this sounds terribly psychotic and paranoid. But paranoia often arises out of social landscapes that speak towards something larger than each singular, seemingly fantastical, worry or suspicion. A kernel of truth exists in each.
So, if I start getting pulled over a lot; if we suddenly have numerous coding violations on our home; if, god forbid, DHS and MPD knock down our door over alleged child abuse accusations (which happened not long ago to a friend here in town who is critical of the police and their tactics; if I happen to be walking home and have the shit beat out of me, well, we all know who’s hand is at play. (Hi, Bobby!)
And this goes for ALL the artists involved in its production, and everyone else helping with its distribution as well.
I was sad to miss Bob when he visited the shop. I genuinely would have liked to have talked to him about his actions and ours. I called the Police Union a short while after we missed one another, but he wasn’t there. So I left a message on his voicemail inviting him to call me back to talk about the work. Maybe even have a book signing at the shop?
So Bob, it’s apparent that you are, in fact, paying attention to all this. I invite you to talk about it, but please don’t hit me – or accuse me of anything, or fuck with my kids, or listen into my phone calls or read my emails – let’s just talk.
I’ll be at Beyond Repair noon tomorrow. See you here. I’ll buy you a coffee.
Not long ago an anonymous source provided me a transcript of an interrogation which Police Federation President Bob Kroll conducted with a 14 year old boy – notably, African-American – when Lt.Kroll was then a Sergeant.
While public information, like so many city documents, this transcript has been buried under the weight of bureaucracy for some twenty years now. In it, Lt. Kroll is revealed to be exactly the type of person many of us are well aware he is; bullying, insensitive, callous, cruel, vindictive… Within it, along with so much more, Lt. Kroll goes so far as to tell the young boy in front of him that he will one day “be a statistic” and killed by a police officer.
A few weeks back, in collaboration with Uncivilized Books, and with the assistance of eighteen comics illustrators, we gathered together at Beyond Repair for an afternoon of drawing wherein we used this transcript – word for word without a single alteration – as the script to illustrate the narrative played out between this young man and Lt. Kroll. In due time we printed 300 copies of this comic with the intent to strategically distribute it around Hennepin County.
On Thursday morning I dropped off copies for each City Council Member, as well as the Mayor. Soon copies will move further afield to Governor Mark Dayton & Lt. Governor Tina Smith, state senators and rep’s, up and down the line.
In the short amount of time that the entire City Council has had editions of the comic I have been impressed and gratified by the response I have received. The energetic and proactive responses of Council Members Jacob Frey, Elizabeth Glidden, Cameron Gordon, Lisa Bender, and Alondra Canohave shown that a good amount of our elected officials in Minneapolis understand how the actions, conduct, and character of Lt. Kroll derails any substantive civic discourse around police accountability and public safety, and how that any long-reaching, thoughtful dialogue around these issues cannot take place when the loudest voice in the room displays the dismissive, aggressive, counter-productive tendencies so evident in the actions and mannerisms of Bob Kroll.
Yesterday I met with a local journalist whose focus is the police beat in the Twin Cities. Pleasantly enthusiastic, he nonetheless wondered, “why this story and why now?” What is the purpose of devoting page space to a twenty year old incident? My reaction was, because it isn’t an old story at all. What the comic illustrates is how we continuously live within and build off of past actions within the present tense.
The narrative told within the comic is common. All too common. It’s played out each and every day in our police precincts and courtrooms, and there are mile high stacks of similar transcripts which speak towards the same callous, and arguably proactive indifference which was directed towards this young person.
The story within the comic we produced plays out not long after the Clinton crime bill takes effect in 1996. What we’ve seen in those twenty years is three strikes and mandatory minimum laws enacted, in parallel to the excessive funding of prisons (both public and private) and budgetary increases for prosecutors the country-wide. Hand in hand with these “tough on crime” funding booms we’ve experienced the defunding of public defenders, treatment and advocacy programs, education, and an astonishing array of social services.
Kroll’s “I don’t care if you did it or not” attitude within the transcript plays directly into this entire ecosystem to the degree in which that indifference becomes procedural. Kroll plays a role. At a time when Hennepin and Ramsey Counties are set to jointly allocate $18 million dollars to fund 165 new juvenile jail cells, Kroll fills the role of processor within that system. A cog, he greases the wheels within the machine so that those beds get filled, primarily with young black and brown bodies, a means to ensure and justify those callous expenditures and the continuing rhetoric that so aggressively, and profitably, devalues human life within it.
We all know that Kroll is a clown. A blustering, blowhard of a figure put into place to distract, disorient, and misinform so that nothing, absolutely nothing of substance gets done. We watch him yelling, stumbling around the civic social landscape, pantomiming white supremacy and patriarchy to the bleak amusement of many. So, yeah, a comic as a method to discuss his role within the prison / judicial industrial complex makes sense, right? It allows us to see Kroll, and more importantly, the role he plays, for what it is.
But as we all know, clown’s aren’t really funny. For some people clown’s are even deeply scary. And when real people, not those playing a role, or those masquerading as human(e), find their lives on the line this sideshow that Kroll serves as a leading character within turns from farce to drama on a knife’s edge. Lives are ruined; silenced, shut off to the questions and qualities of life that concern us all.
It’s not simply the tenor of dialogue that Kroll disrupts, it’s his ability to shut down and silence other voices within the social space wherein the dialogue plays out that matters. The cacophony surrounding his clownishness disrupts the growth or productive complication of our shared narrative called democratic voice. It stifles the narratives ability to flourish and reflect the many different experiences lived in Minneapolis. At its most benign, his antics make the narrative super repetitive and outright boring.
It’s time for Act Two and yet the script for this second act within our civic conversation has yet to be written. In imagining the narrative about to unfold before us, and the characters who might take center stage, it’s time for the clown to exit, stage right.
Stop into Beyond Repair to get your own copy of Sgt. Kroll Goes to the Office. It’s free, of course. After reading it, please share your thoughts. Unless we talk about the new roles, the new characters and imagined vistas available to us, the script will not change and the play will remain the same, going on as it has for the last twenty years. To the delight of few, the boredom of many, and the silencing of far too many.
We write this script together.
In the coming weeks we’ll begin a series of on-going conversations and programs in collaboration with Hennipen County Public Defenders and independent criminal defense lawyers regard individuals rights specific to the social landscape that is the 9th Ward of South Minneapolis. Simply put, how are you and your neighbors being screwed with and where at?
While, admittedly, nothing can protect you from a cop on an aggression kick, knowing your rights and how they can protect you when in proximity to the police is an asset of use to us all, especially for our neighbors most targeted by the police here in the Ward.
With this said, in the planning stages of this groups formation, hearing from neighbors about specific events, tendencies, or repeated actions by individual members of the 3rd Precinct is helpful.
Any suggestions for subject matter on programs specifically relating to the neighborhood would be great to know. Please feel free to
This is Willie. He was here in the market to have lunch and noticed our poster focusing on how the MPD took 61 seconds to kill Jamar Clark from the moment they arrived to the point of the shooting. Willie took a handful of posters to distribute to friends and family. Come in and grab some too. Let’s keep up the pressure. #byemike #justice4jamar
It took the MPD 61 seconds to kill Jamar Clark. We printed up a few hundred of these posters as a reminder to ourselves, MPD, the police federation, and city hall that the state does not have the right to decide when any of us are “ready to die.” Please stop by the shop and take as many as you’d like to display yourself. They are, of course, free, and we are happy to print as many as needed if we run out. Share them with friends. #byemike #justice4jamar