Two Minneapolis police officers in a majority-black section of the city have been placed on leave after a photo circulated of the precinct’s Christmas tree, which was decorated with items that seemingly reflected racial stereotypes.
The tree inside the station for the 4th precinct, in the Near North Minneapolis neighborhood, was decorated with packs of Newport cigarettes, a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, crushed cans of Steel Reserve Malt liquor and other items many felt amounted to racist jokes, reports The Washington Post.
“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,” local City Councilmember Phillipe Cunningham wrote in a Facebook post.
In another post, Cunningham added that the decorations, a photo of which circulated on social media, represented “so much more than a racist prank by a single officer. What we see is the ugly racist culture that has been brewing in Minneapolis Police Department throughout its 150-year history.”
According to NBC News, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the decorations were removed “as soon as it was realized what the display was.”
“Unfortunately I’m reminded today that a single act by a few can significantly damage the positive relationships so many of you have built each day you come to work,” an online letter from Arradondo to the city’s police officers read.
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The Star-Tribune of Minneapolis reported that two city officers were placed on paid leave Friday for their alleged involvement in decorating the tree and that inspector Aaron Biard was removed as the precinct’s commander.
Mayor Jacob Frey said of the decorations, “This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis.”