The St. Paul Police Department has confirmed one of its officers was photographed while dressed as a female Muslim Target employee after the image began to make the rounds on social media sites.
Spokesman Howie Padilla said the officer is a member of the K-9 unit, but police did not release his name.
The investigation began after the department's Twitter account received a tweet on Sunday asking if the person in the photo is one of its officers after it began to make the rounds on social media sites.
The tweet came from Mukhtar Ibrahim, who identifies himself as a journalist and editor in the Washington, D.C. area. Ibrahim received a reply from the police Twitter account Monday thanking him for bringing the photo to the department's attention and saying, "We take this seriously."
Padilla added that Police Chief Tom Smith launched an internal investigation as soon as he became aware of the image.
"After an image was brought to my attention this morning, I ordered an immediate investigation to determine all of the facts surrounding it," Smith said in a written statement on Monday evening. "The Saint Paul Police Department has worked hard to establish a strong and respectful relationship with our Muslim communities, and I will not allow these types of images to erode that relationship. Diversity is one of the greatest strengths of the City of Saint Paul, and we expect each one of our officers to respect and take pride in serving each of our diverse communities."
The investigation remains ongoing.
The Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations recommended the department order the officer to participate in diversity training.
After learning of the photo, Target announced it is also conducting a full investigation and will partner with the St. Paul Police Department while they continue to investigate on their own as well.
"As a company who stands firmly for inclusivity and diversity, we were appalled by this photo and do not tolerate or condone discrimination or harassment of any sort," a Target spokeswoman told FOX 9 by phone.
Target also released a statement confirming that the officer pictured had spent time at a local Target store in a security capacity. Their full statement regarding that relationship can be read below:
"Target is committed to ensuring a safe and secure shopping and working environment for our guests and team members. As part of this commitment, Target uses off-duty police officers as part of a multi-layered security focus. While Target does not directly hire those individuals who periodically provide support, we can confirm that the individual in this photo did occasionally provide off-duty support at a local Target store."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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