Two Minneapolis police officers have been placed on leave pending an internal affairs investigation after a Christmas tree in their precinct’s office was adorned with racist decorations.
A photo of the tree displayed in Minneapolis’ Fourth Precinct went viral on Friday, stirring backlash from community members and elected officials who say the makeshift ornaments were intentionally “derogatory.”
The decorations ― which have since been removed ― included a Newport cigarette pack, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, police tape, a bag of Takis and a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Enraged activists say the props were a nod to racist stereotypes.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Friday blasted the decorations as a “racist display” and called for those responsible to be “fired.”
“This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis,” Frey said in a statement.
Hours later, a spokesman for Frey walked back the mayor’s statement, acknowledging that a “legally required process” must be followed to determine how ― if at all ― the officers will be disciplined.
Police have not publicly identified the officers, who will continue to be paid while on leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on Friday condemned the officers’ actions and said he would “make information public” from the investigation as soon as possible.
“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,” Arradondo said.
The Minneapolis Police Department has struggled to earn the trust of the city’s communities of color given multiple high-profile acts of police violence in recent years.
The Fourth Precinct has been especially scrutinized by the community it serves after one of its police officers fatally shot Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, in November 2015. The two officers involved in the shooting were cleared of wrongdoing.
“We are tired of being the city’s punching bag,” former Minneapolis City Council candidate Raeisha Williams said at a protest Friday, according to the Star-Tribune. “Here we’ve had our holiday taken away from us. Destroyed. Manipulated. By hate, bigotry and racism.”