MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Four off-duty Minneapolis police officers walked off the job after Minnesota Lynx players held a press conference wearing Black Lives Matter warm-up jerseys on Saturday. Minneapolis Police union president Lt. Bob Kroll praised the cops for their actions.
“I commend them for it,” Kroll told the Star Tribune. Kroll said four officers also removed themselves from working any future Lynx games.
The Lynx warm-up shirts read, “Change Starts with Us – Justice & Accountability.” On the back, the shirts included a Dallas Police logo, plus “Black Lives Matter” and the names of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, shot and killed by police officers this past week.
Minneapolis Police Cheif Janee Harteau responded to the incident on Tuesday saying, "Although these officers were working on behalf of the Lynx, when wearing a Minneapolis Police uniform I expect all officers to adhere to our core values and to honor their oath of office. Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear."
During the press conference Saturday, Lynx captain Rebekkah Brunson said, "The divide is way too big between our communities and those who have vowed to serve and protect us."
Brunson continued, “I can remember one day, when we were doing what children do, playing, there were two police officers that showed up, guns drawn, pointing them at us for no apparent reason. At that age [8 years old] we didn’t understand. I can remember then the fear that I felt, the unease of having people who were supposed to protect us drawing their weapons on a group of children.”
According to the Star Tribune, Kroll criticized the Lynx players, citing “false narratives" in the past two years – "Rushing to judgment before the facts are in is unwarranted and reckless," he said.
Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges blasted Kroll's criticism of the Lynx on Tuesday with this statement on Facebook: "Bob Kroll's remarks about the Lynx are jackass remarks. Let me be clear: labor leadership inherently does not speak on behalf of management. Bob Kroll sure as hell doesn't speak for me about the Lynx or about anything else."
Minnesota Lynx statement, July 12
The Lynx organization was made aware about the concerns of the off duty Minneapolis police officers who had signed up to work Saturday night’s game vs. Dallas. While our players message mourned the loss of life due to last week's shootings, we respect the right of those individual officers to express their own beliefs in their own way. At no time was the safety of our game in question as Target Center staffs extra personnel for each and every game. The Lynx and the entire WNBA have been saddened by the recent shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and St. Paul. We continue to urge a constructive discussion about the issues raised by these tragedies.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janee Harteau statement, July 12
“While I do not condone the actions of the officers, I realize how every member of law enforcement throughout this country, including myself, is feeling right now. Everyone is hurting and we all need to find a way to come together. I am proud of our profession and the service our officers provide on a daily basis. Accountability is a must but police officers also deserve and need public support.
Although these officers were working on behalf of the Lynx, when wearing a Minneapolis Police uniform I expect all officers to adhere to our core values and to honor their oath of office. Walking off the job and defaulting on their contractual obligation to provide a service to the Lynx does not conform to the expectations held by the public for the uniform these officers wear.
The MPD is a progressive Department leading the way on many 21st Century Policing initiatives such as equipping our officers with a community support team and body worn cameras. We have also provided all of our officers with fair and impartial policing training, procedural justice training, and de-escalation and crisis intervention training.
I believe every cop wants what every American wants: a safe place to live. We are all in this together, and in the days and weeks ahead, I’m hopeful that common goal will guide the work that leads us to a better place.”