Former Minneapolis officer says city using him as ‘political pawn’ in Christmas tree incident

“I feel that the service I did should be respected and not used for the benefit of damage control.”


A retired Minneapolis police officer said this week that city leaders are using him as a “political pawn” to make themselves look good for their handling of a controversial 2018 incident.

Two Minneapolis police officers, Mark Bohnsack and Brandy Steberg, were initially terminated in late 2018 after they decorated a Christmas tree at the Fourth Precinct station with what some believed were racist ornaments. The incident was back in the news this month after an arbitrator ruled that Bohnsack was wrongly fired.

The city, however, also rescinded its termination of the other officer, but continues to insinuate that he hasn’t returned to the force because he was fired. In truth, Steberg retired from the department for medical reasons after his termination was revoked, according to a statement from his attorney.

“Unfortunately, the city has tried to use Brandy to score political points,” said Jen Yackley, Steberg’s attorney.

“Brandy’s case was settled in January. The city acknowledged that he was disabled in the line of duty. His termination was rescinded, and he separated from service on his own terms. I’m glad Brandy has an opportunity to set the record straight, when the city doesn’t seem to be interested in telling the truth about what happened,” she added.

Steberg said he served Minneapolis as a police officer for 23 years, was named Minnesota’s Officer of the Year in 2001, and was “one of the most decorated Minneapolis police officers in the department.”

“Now that has been tarnished by the city who wants to use me as a political pawn to look good,” he said, claiming the city is being dishonest about his status with the department in order to repair its image following the death of George Floyd.

“I am appalled and ashamed of the lack of leadership and integrity from Chief [Medaria] Arradondo and his administration,” Steberg added. “They talk a good game about requiring leadership and integrity from officers, but they aren’t able to show it themselves when it matters most.”

Steberg suffered a debilitating injury on duty that later resulted in his medical retirement. He said he was initially terminated by the city “for what were very clearly politically-motivated reasons.”

“I commenced a grievance with the assistance of the Minneapolis Federation of Police and asserted various claims against the City of Minneapolis, including a claim for in-the-line of duty benefits,” he explained.

According to Steberg’s account, Minneapolis is now using one of its former officers “at a time when the city needs to do something to look good in the eyes of the public.”

“I don’t think it is necessary for my family to have to hear I was fired, when in truth I wasn’t,” he continued. “The city is using untruths from my case to soften the department’s image all at my expense.”

Steberg said he will continue to tell his side of the story until Minneapolis officials change their stance.

“The Minneapolis Police Department was a place I served faithfully for 23 years,” he concluded. “I feel that the service I did should be respected and not used for the benefit of damage control.”