Cops put on leave over ‘racist’ Christmas tree decorations

Two Minnesota cops were placed on paid leave Friday after a photo of a Christmas display with “racist” ornaments outside a precinct surfaced on social media.

The tree, displayed outside the Fourth Precinct of the Minneapolis Police Department, was littered with police tape, an empty can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, bags of Takis chips and packs of Newport cigarettes, CBS reported.

Black Lives Matter Twin Cities posted the photo online last week and it quickly spurred outrage from members of the black community as well as local officials.

“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,” said City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey vehemently spoke out against the incident.

“This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis,” Frey said. “Racism and intolerance is absolutely unacceptable, and that should especially be the case amongst our city employees.”

An internal investigation found two officers, who are not being publicly identified, added the trash to the tree as a joke after it was already decorated.

Frey called for the officers responsible for the prank to be fired by the end of the day Friday, but the mayor’s spokesperson, Mychal Vlatkovich, later retracted his statement, reported the Star Tribune.

“While Mayor Frey’s earlier statement reflects his sentiment, he recognizes there is a legally required process that must be followed,” said Vlatkovich. “He has full faith in [Police] Chief [Medaria] Arradondo to see that process through in a timely manner.”

Arradondo responded Friday by saying he was “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.”

This isn’t the first time officers in the Fourth Precinct have been accused of being racist. The community recently mourned the third anniversary of the 2015 fatal shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man. Following the shooting, members of Black Lives Matter protested outside the Fourth Precinct for over two weeks.

At a news conference Friday, activists said following the shooting, the Fourth Precinct should be trying to mend the relationship with the community they are meant to serve.

“They hurt EVERY gain made in improving community-police relations,” Cunningham wrote on Facebook. “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.”

Cunningham said he trusted Arradondo to handle the matter.

“While the system of policing is so broken, if there is anyone who can help us figure out how to fundamentally change the MPD culture, it is Chief Arradondo. The Chief has my full support as he leads the efforts to permanently eradicate this ugly racism from the police department,” Cunningham wrote.

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