One week after an unarmed Minneapolis woman was killed in an officer-involved shooting, street signs criticizing “easily startled” police have popped up in the Twin Cities.
The orange traffic sign lookalikes depict a police officer jumping in the air, discharging a gun with each hand. “Warning,” the signs read, “Twin Cities Police easily startled.”
St. Paul Police Department spokesman Steve Linders confirmed there was at least one sign in St. Paul and another in Minneapolis. Linders didn’t comment on any reaction from officers to the signs.
“We are aware of the signs and Minneapolis Public Works is removing them,” Minneapolis Police Department spokeswoman Sgt. Catherine Michal said. “We have no further comment at this time.”
The sign appeared about a week after Minneapolis police shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk, who had called 911 to report a possible assault. Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau stepped down six days later.
Ruszczyk’s death was the latest of several fatal officer-involved shootings in Minnesota. Philando Castile was shot and killed by a St. Anthony officer during a traffic stop in July 2016, sparking nationwide protests. Less than a year earlier, a Minneapolis officer fatally shot Jamar Clark after a scuffle with officers in front of an apartment building.
Addy Free spotted the St. Paul sign at a busy intersection Sunday morning on his way home from work. He snapped a photo, which has since been shared over 18,000 times on Facebook.
“I wish there weren’t so much truth to the sign,” Free said. “Police are given a challenging job, with not enough training to counter overreaction and implicit bias.”
The next morning, when Free went by the place where the sign had been, it was gone. The sign was taken down because it was attached to a legitimate street sign, Linders said, but he was unsure if the incident was being investigated as vandalism.
Free said the sign appeared to be made of metal and that it had the same thickness as the real street sign above it.
“It was not painted,” he said. “It looked like a high quality decal or print like the sign above it.”
An employee at Advantage Signs and Graphics, a Minnesota company that creates custom street signs, said the sign wasn’t produced or ordered through their business.
“I don’t know if the owner would have allowed us to make something like that because of how completely inappropriate it is, so we probably would’ve denied the job,” she said.