Activists wanted the Minneapolis Police Department to know that the Black community feels disrespected by the police officers who decorated the Fourth Precinct’s Christmas tree more than a week ago with racially offensive items.
Community members sent that message by putting up their own Christmas tree outside the precinct’s entrance on Friday night, KSTP-TV reported.
“We are out here to say that as a community, we do not tolerate racism,” said Nekima Levy-Armstrong, Racial Justice Network co-founder.
Images of the tree decorated by the two officers began circulating Nov. 30 on social media. Instead of traditional decorations like candy canes and reindeers, they allegedly placed items that included a Newports cigarette pack, can of Steel Reserve malt liquor and a cup from the fried chicken restaurant Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen on the precinct’s Christmas tree.
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune identified the cops as Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg, both 21-year veterans, based on several sources.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey called for their termination. But more than one week later, police chief Medaria Arradondo, who is Black, demoted the precinct’s commander, but the officers are still collecting paychecks and assigned to serve a predominantly African-American community they disrespect.
Minneapolis police internal affairs has been reviewing the surveillance footage of the Fourth Precinct headquarters lobby where the tree is located.
While Bohnsack and Steberg each 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. 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 those incidents ended in any disciplinary action.
The Fourth Precinct is plagued by poor relations with the Black community it serves. Arradondo 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.
“Appalled, disgusted, hurt because that is not anything that I would certainly condone,” Arradondo said. “I will not defend the indefensible.”
But activists in the community want more than just tough talk. They’re demanding that the two officers get fired, racial bias training for personnel and an overhaul of the precinct.