MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minneapolis officer is back on the job after decorating a Christmas tree inside the 4th Precinct with racially insensitive items.
An arbitrator ruled Mark Bohnsack was wrongfully terminated by the Minneapolis Police Department. However, community members say the incident was meant to hurt people on the North Side.
A package of menthol cigarettes, a can of malt liquor, and a cup from a fried chicken restaurant decorated the Christmas tree inside the Minneapolis Police Fourth Precinct.
“When this happened, communities were really upset. People were ready to make some action happen and they did, right, we put the pressure on and they did,” said Chauntyll Allen, a community leader for Black Lives Matter Twin Cities.
Mayor Jacob Frey called for the officers involved to be fired, but then walked back on that statement.
“We have a process that we are required to go through by law,” he said.
Bohnsack was placed on leave for decorating the tree, and was eventually fired the following fall.
“Now, two years later, when they think nobody is paying attention, they just welcome these racists back into the institution to come patrol our streets again,” said Allen.
State lawmakers passed police reforms after George Floyd was killed, reforms many believe were watered down.
“There needs to be much more diversity amongst arbitrators. most of them are white. They don’t have a connection to the African American community or other communities of color, and they are not looking through a racial justice lens when deciding these cases,” said activist Nekima Levy Armstrong.
The community says it supports Chief Medaria Arradondo and believe his efforts to clean up the department are being undermined by an arbitration system that works for officers and not residents.
“He has fired many officers and many of them have gotten their jobs back even though they have very problematic histories.”
In a statement Mayor Frey said “the facts of this case are clear. Chief Arradondo’s decision to terminate or discipline should not be overturned. We need arbitration reforms that tackles an arbitrator’s authority to reinstate in cases of established, egregious misconduct.”
People in the community are concerned how this re-hiring will amplify the trauma many are already dealing with. Deals of the arbitration proceedings are not available.
The other officer involved in the incident is no longer with the Minneapolis Police Department.