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Mayor, council members condemn Tim Pawlenty mailer with uniformed Minneapolis officers

August 3, 2018

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and several City Council members on Friday criticized a campaign mailer from Republican Tim Pawlenty that features several uniformed Minneapolis officers standing next to the candidate for governor in front of two squad cars.

Frey said the mailer may have violated two city policies, calling it an unauthorized use of the Minneapolis police trademark and citing a prohibition on officers other than the union president or a designee appearing in a political advertisement.

The mailer features Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll and seven other uniformed officers, along with Pawlenty and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach. It includes a statement from Pawlenty expressing his tough-on-immigration stance: “Our state is wasting millions on benefits for those here illegally. That’s not right. I will enforce our laws and be a strong voice for hardworking Minnesotans.”

Tensions are already high between the union, Frey and the City Council in the aftermath of a recent fatal shooting by police. Frey noted that the flier, among other claims, includes Pawlenty’s promise to crack down on so-called “sanctuary” policies meant to separate local police officers from enforcing federal immigration laws.

“Our policy preventing MPD officers from asking about immigration status is not an advisory guideline that can be selectively ignored,” Frey said. “It is a city law that cannot be reversed by Bob Kroll or any political candidate. They don’t speak for the city. So let me make it clear: Our separation ordinance will be enforced no matter who occupies the office of governor or who is leading the police union.”

Kroll and a spokesman for Pawlenty did not return calls for comment Friday.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo released a statement: “I want to make it very clear the MPD does not endorse any political candidate. … We will not engage in any activity that singles out an individual based solely upon their citizenship or immigration status.”

Particularly since the election of President Donald Trump, elected officials in Minneapolis have ramped up advocating for immigrant rights. In his first state of the city speech earlier this year, Frey promised to equip all police cars with placards in several languages that explain the legal rights of immigrants when dealing with authorities.

The city’s separation ordinance encourages people to call 911 without fear of being questioned about their immigration status.

Council Member Steve Fletcher said police appearing in the advertisement are “explicitly undermining that separation ordinance,” and questioned whether it would make people less likely to report crimes to police.

“We want to preserve the intention that Minneapolis police are acting in accordance with city values,” Fletcher said. “And when they wear the uniform to assert a different set of values, they undermine public trust in their mission.”

Council Member Andrew Johnson also said he was concerned about seeing city resources used for political purposes. “I’m deeply disappointed that [Pawlenty] would have abused taxpayer resources like that,” he said.

Council Member Alondra Cano said she became aware of the mailer on Thursday night and immediately contacted Frey. “We are now all working together to address what I believe is an inappropriate use of city resources for political purposes,” she said. “I believe that posing for a photo with our city-issued vehicles and uniforms that will be used in a campaign mailer is an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars.”

The ad capped off a contentious week between the union and elected officials. On Monday, in a news conference praising the actions of the officers involved in the shooting of Thurman Blevins, Kroll criticized the mayor and council for their response to community activists.

“Unfortunately in this city you have to pander to the ultra-left to get elected,” he said. “It’s just a sad state of affairs.”

Council Member Phillipe Cunningham criticized Kroll at a council meeting over a police oversight debate on Wednesday, rebuking Kroll’s comments about wanting more officers with “ice flowing through your veins.”

“Shame on Bob Kroll,” said Cunningham at the meeting.

Andy Mannix • 612-673-4036

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