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Two Minneapolis police officers were put on paid leave Friday after they allegedly decorated a Christmas tree that the mayor described as “racist display.”

Pictures of the tree started circulating Friday— showing ornaments such as Flamin’ Hot Funyuns, a pack of Newport cigarettes, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen drink cup, alcoholic beverage cans and police tape.

Mayor Jacob Frey issued a statement Friday after many in the Black community called the items offensive and derogatory.

“This behavior is racist, despicable, and is well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis,” Frey said. “Racism and intolerance is absolutely unacceptable, and that should especially be the case amongst our city employees.”

Frey’s spokesman, Mychal Vlatkovich, told NBC News on Monday that the two officers are on paid leave while the department’s internal affairs division investigates the incident.

Mayor Frey initially said the person(s) responsible would be fired to send a clear message that such conduct will not be tolerated. But he later flipped the script.

“We have a process that we are required to go through by law, but yes, that is my opinion about where the process should go,” he said.

Minnesota-based civil rights activist Ron Edwards referred to the tree decorations as “a modern-day version of a dog whistle, tainted with racism, specifically against the African-American community.”

Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond says this incident is not isolated and serves as yet another example of the culture within the Minneapolis Police Department.

“I was annoyed I was disheartened, but one thing I wasn’t was shocked, because the 4th Precinct time and time again have showed their disregard for the lives of people in the community and black lives overall,” Redmond said. “I believe that there are a lot of people who work in Minnesota to actually produce justice, but I also think there are many forces working against it, and we have to recognize that this is a systemic issue and it’s not just good enough to fire the individual who put this up. We need to look into how many officers walked by and was OK with it.”

Here is Mayor Frey’s full statement:

“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. Shifting the culture of the police department requires swift and decisive action. Termination is necessary – both to discipline the officer and to send a clear message: Chief Arradondo and I will not tolerate conduct that departs from our values.”

Here is Chief Arradondo’s full statement:

“It was reported to me recently that a racially insensitive display that was put up in the 4th precinct lobby.  As soon as it was realized what the display was, it was removed.

“As was stated by many members of the community during the public hearing in front of the Public Safety Committee on Thursday, the culture of the Minneapolis Police Department has undergone positive change, however as this recent incident shows we still have much work ahead.  Every day I work to bridge the divide between the police department and the community, as do so many others in our department. We will not stop our efforts of treating all those that we serve with fairness, dignity and respect. That manner of treatment is non-negotiable.

“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.  I have initiated a full investigation and will make information public when possible in accordance with Minnesota State Statute.”

Stories Of Racism And Discrimination In 2018
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