Outrage over ‘racist’ Christmas tree
A US police chief has been demoted after two officers in his police station decorated a Christmas tree with racist ornaments.
Inspector Aaron Biard, of the Fourth Precinct in north Minneapolis will be replaced by the previous commander, Assistant Chief Mike Kjos, until the department finds a permanent replacement.
Insp Biard will return to the rank of lieutenant and work in the traffic unit, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The department did not identify the officers responsible for the incident, but the Star Tribune, citing multiple sources, named two 21-year veterans of the force, Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg.
Both men were placed on paid leave last Friday after photographs of the offending Christmas tree were circulated on social media, sparking a firestorm.
The tree was decorated with racially insensitive items such as Newport cigarettes, police crime tape, a can of malt liquor and a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen cup.
"These pieces of trash were deliberately chosen to represent how certain officers feel about the community they serve: that Black people are a stereotype to be mocked and the lives of those they serve may as well be reduced to trash in the gutter," Council Member Phillipe Cunningham wrote on Facebook.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called the decorations "despicable" and said they amounted to a "racist display".
"This behaviour is racist, despicable and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis," he said.
"Racism and intolerance is absolutely unacceptable and that should especially be the case among our city employees."
Mayor Frey said he supports the chief's decision to remove the precinct's commander and said "it reflects his resolve to make meaningful change".
The tree is in the police station on the city's North Side, which has a fractured relationship with police. The precinct was the site of more than two weeks of protests after the 2015 fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark, a black man.
The Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar, a group formed after Mr Clark's shooting, has called for the immediate termination of those involved.