Minneapolis police commissioner Aaron Biard was suspended following a Christmas tree display that was found to include racist decorations. Biard was removed as commander of the Fourth Precinct on the city’s north side, according to a spokesman, and two Minneapolis officers were placed on paid leave for their involvement. The Christmas tree stood at the precinct station and included some questionable decorations.
The tree didn’t have your typical ornaments of the season, but rather appeared to be adorned with items that Mayor Jacob Frey called “despicable” and a “racist display.”
A photo of the tree landed on social media and the items were later removed. The tree’s decorations included Newport cigarettes, a bag of Takis, police crime tape, a can of malt liquor, and a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen cup.
This precinct was the site of protests following the 2015 fatal police shooting of black man Jamar Clark. The group Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar called for immediate termination for those involved in this Christmas display.
The image landed on Twitter, as the person sharing the photo noted: “I found this on Facebook and thought it was a joke. But, it’s real. This is a racist Christmas tree that was up in a Minneapolis police precinct today. Someone needs to be held accountable and a apology given to the community. Ridiculous.”
While the mayor initially called for the officers involved to be fired, he later realized there is a process of investigation before action is taken. He noted: “This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis,” but later explained there is a “legally required process” that must be followed to determine how the officers will be disciplined.
Frey explained in a statement this week that he supports the chief’s decision to remove the precinct’s commander, explaining that “it reflects his resolve to make meaningful change.”
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo called the display “racially insensitive” and explained that it was removed. In a statement, Arradondo noted: “I am ashamed and appalled by the behavior of those who would feel comfortable to act in such a manner that goes against our core department values of trust, accountability and professional service.”
Former Minneapolis City Council candidate Raeisha Williams noted during a recent protest: “We are tired of being the city’s punching bag. Here we’ve had our holiday taken away from us. Destroyed. Manipulated. By hate, bigotry and racism.”
Among the many comments left on the Huffington Post’s coverage of the incident were those who were stunned. One person noted: “Racist? Absolutely. And bad enough. But to have grown-a** men, police on top of that, thinking this sort of thing is funny? It’s like letting middle school children with guns be responsible for public saftey. No thanks. People like this have to go.”
Another commenter agreed, remarking: “You hit the nail right square on the head. The people who did this aren’t mature enough to patrol a neighborhood with a gun.”
Still others were left fuming about how those involved were placed on administrative paid leave, with one person commenting, “Only in government jobs — local, state and federal — do employees get paid while the investigation continues. If this were to happen to you, assuming you are not a government employee… you would just be FIRED on the spot… or given MANDATORY UNPAID LEAVE.”