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Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter

The Minneapolis Police Department demoted one of its commanders Monday over a station Christmas tree decorations that black community leaders decried as racist.

The police department announced that Inspector Aaron Biard, commander of north Minneapolis Fourth Police Precinct, was demoted to the rank of lieutenant and relegated to the traffic unit over a station Christmas tree decorated with Funyuns and Takis bags, empty cans of Steel Reserve malt liquor, two packs of Newport cigarettes, a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen cup, and a strip of police tape, the Star Tribune reported. The decorations were taken down after an online photo of the tree stirred public outcry from city officials and black community leaders. (RELATED: REPORT: Hatchet-Wielding Foreign-Born Arrested After Shouting Allahu Akbar In German Christmas Market)

This is a photo of a racist and derogatory Christmas tree at the Minneapolis 4th precinct. @jeremiah4north @CunninghamMPLS @Jacob_Frey We must demand an apology and commitment to build better community relations. This is unacceptable. pic.twitter.com/xNq4CUZUu5

— North by Northside (@northxnorthside) November 30, 2018

Assistant Chief Mike Kjos, the precincts previous commander, will serve as a temporary replacement for Biard until a permanent replacement is found.

While the MPD has not named the two police officers responsible for the decorations, the Star Tribune identified the officers as 21-year veterans Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg. The MPD said that no officer will comment on the incident as it is under an active investigation. Steberg and Bohnsack, therefore, have not clarified whether the decorations were a race-based joke or were simply pieces of litter collected from the surrounding area.

Minneapolis Councilman Phillipe Cunningham and Mayor Jacob Frey, both Democrats, nevertheless lambasted the decorations as a mockery and stereotype of black people, with Frey initially calling for the officers termination. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo also denounced the decorations and announced that a full investigation of the incident was underway.

Bohnsack and Steberg have been placed on paid leave pending the results of the investigation.

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