MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Minneapolis city and community leaders are denouncing racially insensitive Christmas tree decorations put up by a police officer in the Fourth Precinct earlier this week.
According to Minneapolis Police, two officers have been put on paid leave as a result of the incident.
Each year, an officer in the precinct is assigned to decorate the tree. In a Facebook post, city council member Phillipe Cunningham said the Fourth Precinct inspector told him another officer hung some inappropriate items on the tree as a prank after it had been decorated.
A photo of the tree that has been receiving attention online shows a Popeye’s bucket, police tape, a Newport cigarette pack and a bag of Takis, among other things, hung on the tree.
This is a photo of a racist and derogatory Christmas tree at the Minneapolis 4th precinct. @jeremiah4north @CunninghamMPLS @Jacob_Frey We must demand an apology and commitment to build better community relations. This is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/xNq4CUZUu5— North by Northside (@northxnorthside) November 30, 2018
The inspector told Cunningham the decorations were taken down immediately. The officer who put them up was disciplined. The police department will also be holding cultural sensitivity training and a community outreach event as a result of the incident.
In a statement, Mayor Jacob Frey said said the officer's behavior was “racist, despicable and well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis.”
Frey said in his statement the officer involved will be fired by the end of the day on Friday. He later walked back his comments, but said he still would like to see the officer terminated.
“Shifting the culture of the police department requires swift and decisive action,” Frey said. “Termination is necessary – both to discipline the officer and to send a clear message: Chief Arradondo and I will not tolerate conduct that departs from our values.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he has initiated a full investigation into the incident.
“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,” the chief said in a statement.
Arradondo said the police department still has work ahead to continue to bridging the divide between them and the community they serve.
In a news conference Friday afternoon, community members held a news conference to outline their concerns about the tree and what they believe it represents.
"It's not funny and it's not a joke," said Chauntyll Allen of Black Lives Matter Twin Cities.
In addition to taking the message seriously, some community members said it hit home, too.
"We knew what the message was right away. We got it. They wanted to send a message to us and we got it right away. In short form, it was to say to all you people that live around here, you all ain't nothing," said Mel Reeves, a community activist.
For Leslie Redmond, the Minneapolis NAACP president, the situation was indicative of a greater, more problematic trend.
"I was angry. I was annoyed. I was disheartened. But one thing I wasn't was shocked, because the fourth precinct time and time again showed their disregard for the black community and black people overall," she said.
Redmond went on to say, "If we don't acknowledge the systemic issues that are going on here and that this wasn't created overnight, it's not going to be fixed overnight, then we're not going to be able to move forward."