Police Department officers placed on leave and inspector removed over 'racist Christmas tree'

Police Department officers placed on leave and inspector removed over ‘racist Christmas tree’

Two Minneapolis Police Department officers have been placed on leave and the ranking officer of the Minneapolis police precinct has been removed from his post after a photo started circulating of a prank involving a Christmas tree with decorations that have been called racist.

Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder confirmed that Inspector Aaron Biard was removed from the top position at the north side precinct station where the tree was apparently photographed.

“After very thoughtful review and consideration I have made the decision that effective immediately Assistant Chief [Mike] Kjos will be responsible for the day to day operations of the 4th Precinct,” Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Christmas tree in Fourth Precinct was decorated with a Newport cigarette pack, a can of Steel Reserve malt liquor, police tape, a bag of Takis (hot chili powder) and a cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. 

Civil rights activist Ron Edwards said the tree decorations were a “wink wink” to racist stereotypes.

“It’s a modern-day version of a dog whistle, tainted with racism, specifically against the African-American community,” Edwards said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

A photo of the tree sparked outrage on Twitter.

“This is a photo of a racist and derogatory Christmas tree at the Minneapolis 4th precinct,” North by Northside posted on Twitter. “We must demand an apology and commitment to build better community relations. This is unacceptable.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the tree decorations were racist and called it “despicable.”

Mayor Frey said those that are responsible “will be fired before the day is over.” However, the mayor’s office had to backtrack from that statement.

Mychal Vlatkovich, the mayor’s spokesman, said a few hours later that the process of firing a police officer takes more time.

“While Mayor Frey’s earlier statement reflects his sentiment, he recognizes there is a legally required process that must be followed,” said Vlatkovich, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “He has full faith in Chief [Medaria] Arradondo to see that process through in a timely manner.”

City Council Member Jeremiah Ellison said he was at a loss for words to describe how he feels about the photo.

“Man, every way I could put it would understate it,” said Ellison, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “It’s disappointing, but also I think deeply disturbing to wake up to something like that. Not just for myself, but for my neighbors.”

Ellison said the police precinct will address the issue as a group.

The two officers are on paid leave while the department’s internal affairs division investigates the incident.

Many on Twitter were confused by the outrage:

And a few were outraged:

What do you think? Is the Christmas tree racist? Comment below:

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