A ranking member of the Minneapolis Police Department was fired Monday after he was found responsible for decorating a precinct Christmas tree will allegedly racist ornaments.
Images of the tree, located at the department’s north side precinct, began to surface on social media Friday and showed a tree decorated with what community members called racist ornamentation. Among the decorations were a pack of Newport cigarettes, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen drink cup, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, a bag of Takis, and police tape.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey immediately issued a statement on the matter Friday morning, and called for the responsible officer’s termination. It was only through spokesman Mychal Vlatkovich that Frey clarified he would respect “the legally required process that must be followed,” according to The Star Tribune.
“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,” Frey said in his statement. “Shifting the culture of the police department requires swift and decisive action. Termination is necessary—both to discipline the officer and send a clear message: Chief Arradondo and I will not tolerate conduct that departs from our values.”
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
Community activists protested outside the precinct Friday night where they demanded reparations for the incident, and called for a healing event for Minneapolis residents, The Star Tribune reports.
“We are tired of being the city’s punching bag,” former City Council candidate Raeisha Williams said during the protest.
Civil rights activist and local radio host Ron Edwards suggested that the ornamentation was a “wink-wink” to racism.
“It’s a modern-day version of a dog whistle, tainted with racism, specifically against the African-American community,” he said. “Here we’ve had our holiday taken away from us. Destroyed. Manipulated. By hate, bigotry, and racism.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo issued a statement Friday urging his staff to “be genuine in all you do and say.”
“We will be judged critically by those we serve, and rightfully so, when our and behavior goes against our core department values of trust, accountability, and professional service,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m reminded today that a single act by a few can significantly damage the positive relationships so many of you have built each day you come to work.”
“Biased behavior by any member of the MPD [Minneapolis Police Department] in any form through words or actions will never be tolerated by me as your Chief. I will not defend the indefensible,” he added.
On Monday, Arradondo announced that Inspector Aaron Biard was fired from the department and replaced by Assistant Chief Mike Kjos.
“After very thoughtful review and consideration I have made the decision that effective immediately Assistant Chief Kjos will be responsible for the day to day operations of the 4th Precinct,” he said.
Baird allegedly claimed that the decorations were a prank pulled by another officer whom he had assigned with decorating the tree.
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