LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus on Wednesday called for the resignation or firing of the head of the State Police for sharing a Facebook post calling NFL players who protest during the national anthem “anti-American degenerates.”
The caucus, which is comprised of 22 Democratic legislators, said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue — who has apologized — can no longer be trusted to fulfill her duties in an objective and unbiased manner. Liberal activists and at least one Democratic gubernatorial candidate have also called for her ouster.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder says he will not ask Etue to step down.
“Those were inappropriate comments. She came out and apologized and she’s done great service for the state. I view it as people make mistakes, she recognized that and let’s keep moving forward,” Snyder said while in Walker for Move System’s ribbon cutting ceremony.
“She’s had a very distinguished career and how many people go through life without making a mistake? The thing is, do you recognize that mistake, apologize, learn from that and move forward,” added Snyder.
The post Etue shared on Sunday, which was signed “we the people,” calls the protesting players “millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans.” It also called them “rich, entitled, ungrateful.”
The post angered lawmakers, especially in Detroit, where a state police trooper last month fired a Taser at a teenager in a chase before the 15-year-old crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died.
State Sen. Vincent Gregory, a Southfield Democrat and former sheriff’s detective, said during a contentious state Senate debate that law enforcement officers are “held to a higher standard” and Etue must meet “an even higher standard.”
“We have now a colonel, the leader of the state police, that has now shown a distinct bias toward a group of citizens in the state of Michigan,” he said. “So my question is, ‘How can she continue to do this job when she’s shown a bias?'”
In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union called for Etue to resign in the wake of the post, saying her resignation was needed to “send an unequivocal message that racial bias in policing will not be tolerated and that there are consequences.”
But Republicans defended Etue.
State Sen. Rick Jones, a former sheriff from Grand Ledge, said Etue has worked to recruit more women and minority troopers. He said the meme she shared was on her private Facebook page and that she has the same First Amendment rights as the protesting players.
Republican state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, of Canton Township, called Etue “a woman of honor, integrity” and urged NFL players to not “protest a symbol of our unity.”
The taking of a knee during the national anthem was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to social inequality and police treatment of blacks. No team signed Kaepernick last offseason, which many believe is because of the stand he has taken.
The full statement from the ACLU:
“Today, we call upon Director Kriste Etue to resign immediately in order to send an unequivocal message that racial bias in policing will not be tolerated and that there are consequences.
“It is the sworn duty of the Michigan State Police Director to uphold the Constitution, which protects the rights of all people, including the athletes kneeling in protest of police brutality.
“Director Etue, through her original comments and disastrous apology, has shown a complete disregard for these constitutional principles and the highly relevant concerns of athletes who are protesting. her comments are even more concerning against the backdrop of a national pattern of law enforcement’s excessive, and sometimes fatal, force against people of color as well as MSP’s own strained relationship with communities of color.
“In too many parts of our state, there are two kinds of policing: one to serve and protect white communities and one that unfairly criminalizes communities of color. Through these comments, Director Etue undermined her leadership and may have irreparably damaged MSP’s relationship with communities of color.
“Too often, police officers, and the departments they work for, are not held accountable for their actions. If these actions are left unaddressed, law enforcement officers will take their cues from her statement and the lack of accountability.”