Demands for change in wake of Minneapolis Police Christmas tree controversy

Demands to reconstruct the Minneapolis Police Department's 4th Precinct on the north side are growing louder in the aftermath of a decorated Christmas tree, which some community members found racially insensitive.

“This is one of the only ways that we think it’s possible to create a paradigm shift at the 4th Precinct and to shift department culture,” said Nekima Levy Armstrong, an attorney and co-founder of the Racial Justice Network.

Levy Armstrong is leading the charge to make massive changes inside the police department's 4th Precinct. She says many people in the community are still angered by the fallout from the Christmas tree, which was decorated inside the lobby with items such as cigarettes, a Takis bag and a Popeye’s cup.

“We want the 4th Precinct, if it is to remain in the community, to be a more welcoming environment and that can only happen if we uproot those officers who have a violent history out of that particular precinct,” she said.

Community members listed demands in an open letter directed to Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. They are asking "that every officer and staff member be required to reapply for a job at the Fourth Precinct under this new plan" and that “officers who have a history of excessive force complaints, discipline, domestic abuse, and harassment be denied access to operate out of the Fourth Precinct."

A petition is circulating throughout the city and more than a thousand people have already signed on calling for the two officers involved to be fired. There's also a gathering scheduled outside the precinct on Friday evening where people are invited to bring an ornament and decorate a tree that will be placed there.

Levy Armstrong also hopes to form a police advisory commission that has regular access to the chief, mayor and senior leadership within the 4th Precinct.

“If the Mayor and the Chief are serious about restoring public trust that is one way of signaling to the community that they will change things for the better,” she said.

The chief has publicly condemned the actions of the two officers involved with decorating the tree. Currently they are on leave while an investigation continues. The inspector of the 4th Precinct has also been removed.

The department declined to comment on these latest developments Wednesday evening but FOX 9 caught up with Arradondo at an awards ceremony earlier this week where he addressed many of his officers.

“It’s important that each and every day we do our best to go out there and prove the naysayers wrong and I mean that collectively as a community,” he said at the ceremony.

In a statement released Wednesday night, Mayor Frey said, "I support the Chief and the investigation, and I reiterate that any behavior that violates community trust is totally unacceptable."

The letter will be handed over to the chief and mayor this coming Monday. Community leaders are asking for a public response within a week.