Two Minneapolis officers were put on leave after decorating their precinct with a 'racist' Christmas tree

Along with the ornaments and strands of lights, two police officers in the 4th precinct of Minneapolis' Poli...

Posted: Dec 5, 2018 8:28 AM
Updated: Dec 5, 2018 8:28 AM

Along with the ornaments and strands of lights, two police officers in the 4th precinct of Minneapolis' Police Department added some unusual items to their lobby's Christmas tree: A collection of street trash, including packs of Newport cigarettes, a crumpled bag of Takis chips, a cup from a Popeyes fried chicken outlet, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor and some yellow crime scene tape. Critics say the items chosen play on negative stereotypes about African-Americans.

"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," City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham said on Facebook.

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The department has since placed the officers on leave and has launched an internal investigation amid an outcry that the decorations mocked the precinct's predominantly black neighborhoods. The precinct commander also was demoted, according to the Star-Tribune.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called the tree "racist" and "despicable." On Friday, he vowed the officers responsible would be fired.

"Shifting the culture of the police department requires swift and decisive action," he said. "Termination is necessary -- both to discipline the officer and to send a clear message."

A spokesman from the mayor's office has since walked back parts of that statement, acknowledging that the fate of the officers responsible will take some time to determine.

"Every day I work to bridge the divide between the police department and the community, as do so many others in our department," said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo in a statement. "The culture of the Minneapolis Police Department has undergone positive change, however as this recent incident shows we still have much work ahead."

Three years ago, the department was heavily criticized for the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old African-American, during a scuffle with white officers. An internal investigation concluded in 2016 that the officers involved did not violate any department policies, and they were not disciplined.

City council members react

Cunningham, the city council member, said the conversation around the Christmas tree is about a lot more than the trash used to decorate it.

"It's about broken trust. The police break our trust when they do things that undermine the humanity of our community," he said.

"Reminders like this continue to infuriate me and so many in my community. They hurt EVERY gain made in improving community-police relations. On a personal level, despite being a (councilman), I am still a Black man myself and these outrageous reminders only further my own feeling generally unsafe around police officers."

Another city councilman, Jeremiah Ellison, said on Twitter that he's working to address the incident.

"It might seem small to some, but it simply is racist and offensive, and I'm sorry the community has to experience this from our precinct," he said.

Activist: 'We're disgusted and we're outraged'

"I'm appalled, I can't believe that this really happened, just to make a mockery of everything," said Chauntyll Allen, founder of Black Lives Matter's Twin Cities chapter.

"The yellow tape is so traumatic," she said. "It's just triggering to anybody who's experienced any kind of crime in the past year."

She said she felt the objects on the tree were "a representation of everything that's deadly in our community."

Mel Reeves, a Twin Cities human rights activist, said there's no trust to break because there was never trust between the police and the community in the first place.

"The police is supposed to serve and protect," he said. "If something happens over and over again, it just means it's something you're doing on purpose."

After the shooting of Clark, there are still wounds in the community that haven't healed, Reeves said.

"It just sends a message that they don't really have any respect for our community," he told CNN. "There's no trust. It's an uneasy tension between the community and the police."

"We're disgusted and we're outraged," said Reeves, who also appeared at a press conference Friday about the incident. "This is Christmas season. This is time for peace, goodwill towards other human beings. The message they send is they don't even like us, and that disdain doesn't take a holiday."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 315026

Reported Deaths: 7257
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21684260
Hinds20385416
Harrison17973309
Rankin13650278
Jackson13456246
Madison10130217
Lee9988174
Jones8388163
Forrest7701152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6411148
Lamar624686
Lafayette6210119
Washington5342134
Bolivar4804132
Oktibbeha463298
Panola4601107
Pearl River4524146
Marshall4454103
Warren4397121
Pontotoc421172
Monroe4120133
Union411276
Neshoba4033176
Lincoln3972110
Hancock380287
Leflore3500125
Sunflower336490
Tate335484
Pike3330105
Scott316773
Alcorn313670
Yazoo311870
Itawamba300877
Copiah297865
Coahoma295979
Simpson295388
Tippah289068
Adams288682
Prentiss280360
Marion269680
Leake268673
Wayne262941
Grenada261987
Covington260381
George249448
Newton246963
Winston227881
Tishomingo227567
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208457
Holmes189174
Clay185654
Stone183033
Tallahatchie179041
Clarke178180
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164838
Smith162734
Walthall134345
Greene130633
Lawrence129324
Montgomery127242
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121929
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107233
Tunica105726
Claiborne102530
Benton100125
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67631
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540267

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798791529
Mobile41295809
Madison35175506
Tuscaloosa25932455
Shelby25309249
Montgomery24736593
Baldwin21422310
Lee15997172
Calhoun14577319
Morgan14431280
Etowah13927353
Marshall12280225
Houston10650282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10075151
St. Clair9955245
Cullman9773194
Lauderdale9465243
DeKalb8866188
Talladega8344176
Walker7261278
Autauga7010108
Jackson6840112
Blount6776139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5583118
Dale4878113
Russell445938
Chilton4383113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia395177
Chambers3598123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303698
Winston275873
Bibb264864
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219069
Fayette213162
Henry190043
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178241
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153657
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140753
Wilcox127430
Bullock123342
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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