The two Minneapolis police officers who decorated their precinct’s Christmas tree with racially insulting items remained on paid leave despite their history of complaints and shootings in the predominantly Black community they serve.
Officials demoted the Fourth Precinct’s commander Aaron Biard on Monday while an internal investigation of the two officers continued, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
The newspaper identified the cops as Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg, both 21-year veterans, based on several sources.
Instead of traditional decorations like candy canes and reindeers, Bohnsack and Steberg allegedly placed items that included a Newports cigarette pack, can of Steel Reserve malt liquor and cup from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen on the precinct’s Christmas tree. Images of the tree surfaced on social media Friday. They were placed on paid leave the same day.
The Fourth Precinct is plagued by poor relations with the Black community it serves. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, who is Black, has been struggling to build trust with the community after a series of high-profile police-involved shootings, including Jamar Clark in 2015 and Thurman Blevins in June 2018.
While Bohnsack and Steberg have had several commendations, they also had at least three separate fatal police shootings that did not result in indictments and numerous complaints on their records. Bohnsack had at least 12 complaints since 2013—one of them was ongoing as of Tuesday. Steberg went unpunished in two complaints. He was also named as a defendant in three federal court cases involving alleged use of excessive force.
None of the above instances ended in any disciplinary action.
On Friday, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said the Christmas tree was a “racist display” and called for the officer to be fired. But the mayor’s spokesman stepped on the brakes, noting that there’s a legal process required before dismissing the officers.
Four days later, their boss was demoted but the officers were still collecting paychecks and assigned to a precinct that serves a community they disrespect.