The Detroit Free Press reported yesterday (October 19) that Michigan State Police (MSP) director Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue, who is White, will be docked five days’ pay for a Facebook post disparaging Black NFL players who protest police violence. The move did not impress advocacy groups like Color of Change, who mobilized thousands of people to call for Etue’s dismissal.
An earlier Free Press report traces the controversy back to September 24, when Etue published a personal Facebook post calling out athletes who take a knee or otherwise abstain from pre-game national anthems. Etue’s page is no longer publicly available on Facebook, but here’s a transcription of the Free Press’ screenshot of the post:
Dear NFL: We will not support millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our Armed Forces and Veterans. Who wins a football game has ZERO impact on our lives. Who fights for and defends our nation has EVERY impact on our lives. We stand with the Heroes, not a bunch of rich, entitled, arrogant, ungrateful, anti-American degenerates. Signed, We the People.
Etue’s comments drew immediate backlash from advocacy groups and the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, which the Lansing State Journal reports met with Governor Rick Snyder to call for Etue’s resignation.
The post also inflamed existing critiques about the MSP and its predominantly White workforce. The Michigan Civil Service’s 2017 report on state employee demographics notes that only 171 (or 5.7 percent) of the 2,979 state troopers are Black, compared to the 2,669 (or 89.6 percent) who are White.
Another Free Press report notes that the MSP encountered criticism earlier this year when trooper Mark Bessner, whose race was not specified, violated department policy by deploying a Taser from his moving squad car. His target, a 15-year-old Black Detroit resident named Damon Grimes, subsequently crashed the all-terrain vehicle he was riding. Grimes later died at an area hospital.
Snyder told the Free Press and other media outlets yesterday that Etue, who had already apologized “to anyone who was offended” via the MSP’s Facebook page, will work for five days without pay. Snyder said he specifically punished Etue for violating MSP social media policy, which prohibits troopers from posting “images, acts or statements that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, religion or class of protected people.”
“Col. Etue posted something on social media that was inappropriate,” Snyder wrote in a statement to the Free Press. “She immediately apologized and has acted to demonstrate that apology, including facilitating meetings with various groups to hear concerns and to share the work the Michigan State Police does in cities and neighborhoods.”
Kenneth Reed of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality told the Free Press that her apology does not redeem a department culture that allows deaths like Grimes’. “She’s part of that culture as well,” Reed said. “It’s unacceptable all the way around and people are getting tired. She gets a suspension … and she gets to walk away from this thing.”
Color of Change responded by delivering a petition with 85,000 signatures to Snyder’s Lansing office today (October 20). The petition calls for Snyder to fire Etue.
”NFL players who have kneeled during the national anthem have used their national stage to bring attention to an epidemic of systemic violence against Black and Brown people,” writes Color of Change executive director Rashad Robinson in a press release. “Colonel Etue used her stage to racially attack these brave men as ‘ingrates’ and ‘degenerates’ for voicing their opinions. And behind those words lay a disturbing record of failing to hold police accountable for killing Black people and overseeing a department that is severely lacking in diversity. Michigan needs leadership that will work with communities to end racism, not denigrate and silence those who are calling for change.”