Two police officers from north Minneapolis' 4th Precinct have been placed on paid leave while investigators seek an explanation for Christmas tree decorations some have called offensive that were shown in an image that went viral last week. The adornments were purportedly displayed by the cops as a prank, but those who say the act was racist aren't laughing.
What are the details?
According to KSTP-TV, the officers were relieved of their duties Friday afternoon after an image of the precinct's Christmas tree went viral. After the tree had been decorated with traditional ornaments, at least one officer reportedly added pieces of trash as a prank — including cans of malt liquor, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen cups, Newport cigarette boxes, and empty bags of Takis chips.
WCCO-TV reported that such "items are considered derogatory in nature to the black community."
Community leaders and activities are reacting with outrage to the images, as Minneapolis law enforcement has struggled to recover from several officer-related deaths of civilians, including Jamar Clark and Justine Damond.
Black Lives Matter Twin Cities Metro posted a picture of the tree to the group's Facebook account, saying the actions by the officers "show exactly how they feel about the Northside community" and accused the department of making a "mockery of our tragedy."
'Racist' decorations removed from Christmas tree inside north Minneapolis' 4th Precinct police station, city council member says. | https://t.co/k5OnNFwQ79 pic.twitter.com/ZHxIOg90mm
— WCCO - CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) November 30, 2018
City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham said in a Facebook 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 be reduced to trash in the gutter."
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradonda acknowledged that the "racially insensitive display" was removed from the precinct's lobby after it was reported to him.
"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," Arradonda said in a statement.
What did the mayor say?
In his initial reaction on Friday, Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement, saying, "This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis. The offending party will be fired before the day is over."
Later that day, Frey eased his call for immediate termination of the officers.
"We have a process that we are required to go through by law, but yes, that is my opinion about where the process should go," he said, WCCO reported.