Two Minneapolis police officers responsible for hanging offensive decorations on a precinct’s Christmas tree last December have been fired, the Minneapolis Police Department recently revealed.
The department confirmed with The Star Tribune that the two officers, Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg, who have been on administrative leave since the incident, have now been terminated from their positions.
“I support Chief Arradondo and his vision for shifting the culture of our police department,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement. “Racist behavior that undermines our work to improve police-community relations and build trust is unacceptable.”
As The Minnesota Sun reported in December, Frey initially called for their immediate termination, but later clarified through a spokesperson that he would respect the “legally required process that must be followed.”
“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 immediately following the incident, though the officers weren’t fired until eight months later.
Images of the Christmas tree, located at the department’s North Side precinct, began to surface on social media in early December 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 cup, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, a bag of Takis, and police tape.
Community activists protested outside the precinct in response to the Christmas tree decorations and called them a “wink-wink” to racism.
“We are tired of being the city’s punching bad,” said former Minneapolis City Council candidate Raeisha Williams.
Precinct Inspector Aaron Biard was demoted from his role following the incident and an investigation continues into his behavior.
Minneapolis Council Member Phillipe Cunningham who represents the North Side provided a statement to The Star Tribune on the terminations.
“It’s important for people who are employed with the city to understand the standard that they’re being expected to perform with cultural competency,” he said. “I think when certain behaviors such as this aren’t dealt with expediency, that erodes public trust.”
The Minneapolis Police Federation said it has filed appeals on behalf of the terminated officers.
“The chief and I don’t agree on everything, but when we disagree, it’s in a very respectful manner,” Federation President Lt. Bob Kroll told The Star Tribune. “There’s a process in place and we’re going through that process.”
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo hasn’t commented on the terminations because the department doesn’t comment on personnel matters. He did, however, release a lengthy statement in December on the situation.
“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,” he said, as The Sun reported. “Biased behavior by any member of the MPD in any form through words or actions will never be tolerated. I will not defend the indefensible.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Minneapolis Police” by Tony Webster. CC BY 2.0.