This week, a photo of a christmas tree put together by Minneapolis’ 4th district police spread across the internet, getting national attention. The tree was decorated with Newport cigarettes, crime tape, malt liquor, Popeye’s cup, a bag of Taki’s, among other things.
This latest act of racism sparked outcry from community members already dealing with a history of butting heads with the 4th district police department.
Over the last few days, a slew of posts and discussions broke out on social media. Below are a few bites.
“The part that concerns me most with the racist display at the 4th Precinct was that an officer not only felt *safe* being racist in their workplace, but that they clearly believed their fellow officers would *enjoy* it.” -A.J.
“That tree should not be classified as a "‘Joke’. It was a DIRECT attack on the Black community. In all my love for police I would be a hypocrite to not call it what it is…. Racist!!
The audacity to do that and have it in an area for the Public view is disgusting and a slap in the face of those of us working so hard to bridge the gap.” - L.C.
“Clearly they need racial bias training as well as making those responsible to come forward and get fired. Police will not act like this in my community! Minneapolis will not allow this behavior!” -J.M.
“They missed a perfect opportunity during this season of giving to work with Juxtaposition Arts on a unique, artistic tree with kids… Patrol and sing carols. Do large digital holiday projections on their precinct building. All great art ideas that could 1: rebuild their identity in the neighborhood… 2: allow neighbors to invest some ‘emotional equity’ in police AND 3: put money into the local infrastructure by hiring talented Near North artists.” -R.R.
READ THE FULL LETTER BELOW.
Dear Mayor Frey and Chief Arrandondo,
The Fourth Precinct Police Station has been the source of much strife, contention, negativity, lingering protests, outrage, and hostility as a result of the demeaning, discriminatory, and abusive treatment that many officers have displayed towards North Minneapolis residents. Just three years ago, the Fourth Precinct was the site of an 18 day occupation by activists and community members, following the shooting death of Jamar Clark, a 24 year old Black man, who despite being unarmed, was shot in the head at point-blank range by Minneapolis police officers within 61 seconds of encountering him. Neither of the two officers were held accountable and likely remain on the police force, although both officers had a history of excessive force prior to being hired by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD).
Since Jamar Clark’s death on November 15, 2015, Fourth Precinct Police officers have shot and killed two other men of color, both within the last six months— Thurman Blevins and Travis Jordan. With proper de-escalation techniques and mental health interventions, both of these tragic situations could have ended much differently and the lives of these men could have been preserved. Again, there has been no accountability for the officers in question, leaving the community in jeopardy and without any real assurances that similar incidents will not happen again.
In addition to deadly police shootings at the hands of Fourth Precinct Police officers, North Minneapolis residents are routinely subjected to bogus traffic stops for petty reasons, such as failure to use a turn signal, racial profiling, illegal searches and seizures, undue harassment, and criminalization. Were MPD to mine its own data, patterns would emerge that show that these issues are occurring with regularity and are causing significant harm and trauma to an already under-resourced and over-burdened community. Our community has made repeated requests for an evaluation of the systemic patterns of police misconduct and abuse arising from Fourth Precinct police officers, to no avail.
Most recently, the Fourth Precinct is now the site of yet another egregious incident, a racist Christmas Tree display that was taken down only after a public outcry. Although two officers are allegedly being investigated for their role as perpetrators (and we expect that they will be fired), the question remains as to how many other Fourth Precinct officers and supervisors knew about the racist Christmas tree display and said or did nothing. These individuals are just as culpable as the two officers responsible for decorating the tree. Their collective silence and acquiescence to police misconduct, racism, and demeaning of an entire community is reflective of a culture that is in dire need of change and a radical overhaul.
Thus, as concerned community members from across the Metro area, we write to you today to demand that the staffing and leadership of the Fourth Precinct Police station be completely restructured.
We demand that a specific and narrowly-tailored plan for community policing be implemented, that includes input from North Minneapolis residents and stakeholders.
We demand that every officer and staff member be required to reapply for a job at the Fourth Precinct Under this new plan.
We demand that officers who have a history of excessive force complaints, discipline, domestic abuse, and harassment be denied access to operate out of the Fourth Precinct.
We demand greater levels of racial diversity of officers placed at the Fourth Precinct and that civilian positions for North Minneapolis residents will be created.
We demand the creation of a Northside police advisory Commission that has regular access to Chief Arradondo, Mayor Frey, and Senior leadership of the Fourth Precinct, as well as data regarding arrests, traffic stops, and complaints lodged against Fourth Precinct Police officers.
Finally, we demand that the Fourth Precinct no longer serve as a drop off location for Toys for Tots and that the site is transferred to a trusted community location.
We request a public response to each of these demands by Monday, December 17, 2018. Please take the concerns and suggestions seriously, for the sake of residents who are forced to rely upon city leaders to do their jobs effectively and diligently and to work to protect us.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and response.
Nekima Levy Armstrong, Attorney and co-founder, Racial Justice Network
Marques Armstrong, co-founder, Racial Justice Network
Raeisha Williams, Black Coalition
Chauntyll Allen, Black Lives Matter Twin Cities
Not long after posting about this on social media, the announcement has garnered at least 60 comments, mostly from people who want to sign the letter too. People from as far as Louisiana have signed the letter asking for a drastic change.