Two Minneapolis police officers face potential termination for decorating their station’s Christmas tree with ornaments that city officials and black community leaders condemned as racist.
The police officers decorated the Christmas tree at the 4th Precinct station not only with lights and normal Christmas ornaments, but also with pieces of litter, including Funyuns and Takis bags, empty cans of Steel Reserve malt liquor, two packs of Newport cigarettes, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen cup, and a strip of police tape. Authorities placed the officers on leave Friday after pictures of the tree on social media led to public outcry. (RELATED: REPORT: Hatchet-Wielding ‘Foreign-Born’ Arrested After Shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ In German Christmas Market)
“These pieces of trash were deliberately chosen to represent how certain officers feel about the community they serve: that black people are a stereotype to be mocked and the lives of those they serve may as well be reduced to trash in the gutter,” Minneapolis Councilman Phillipe Cunningham wrote Friday on Facebook.
Mayor Jacob Frey also decried the tree as “racist, despicable, and well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis.” Frey, a Democrat, initially demanded that the officers be fired. Termination “is necessary — both to discipline the officer and to send a clear message: [Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo] and I will not tolerate conduct that departs from our values,” he said according to The Washington Post.
Frey later recanted his statement, acknowledging that police had to follow a legal process and investigation to determine what action to take concerning the officers involved.
This is a photo of a racist and derogatory Christmas tree at the Minneapolis 4th precinct. @jeremiah4north @CunninghamMPLS @Jacob_Frey We must demand an apology and commitment to build better community relations. This is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/xNq4CUZUu5
— North by Northside (@northxnorthside) November 30, 2018
Cunningham described the tree as a “racist prank,” though the officers involved have not spoken out about whether the decorations were meant to be a joke related to race or just litter that they collected from the surrounding area.
Cunningham also suggested that the tree was further justification for black men like himself to distrust police officers.
“They hurt EVERY gain made in improving community-police relations,” Cunningham added. “On a personal level, despite being a [Council Member], I am still a Black man myself and these outrageous reminders only further my own feeling (of being) generally unsafe around police officers.”
John Elder, a Minneapolis Police Department public information officer, told The Daily Caller News Foundation that neither the officers involved nor any other officers in the department could provide comment about the incident as it is the subject of an active investigation.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo issued a statement Friday, decrying the tree and assuring the public that the tree was removed as soon as officials became aware of it.
“I am ashamed and appalled by the behavior of those who would feel comfortable to act in such a manner that goes against our core department values of Trust, Accountability and Professional Service. I have initiated a full investigation and will make information public when possible in accordance with Minnesota State Statute,” Arradondo said.
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