Detroit — A Detroit Police Department detective was demoted and is the subject of an internal investigation after a controversial Facebook post in which he criticized the Black Lives Matter movement.
Nathan Weekley, a 17-year veteran of the department, was demoted to the rank of officer after the post went viral, police Chief James Craig said Monday.
In a post that has since been removed, Weekley, who is white, wrote:
“For the first time in my nearly 17 years as a law enforcement officer I contemplated calling into work in response to the outrageous act perpetrated against my brothers. It seems like the only response that will demonstrate our importance to society as a whole. The only racists here are the piece of (expletive) Black Lives Matter terrorists and their supporters.”
Craig said Weekley “is entitled to due process” as the department conducts an internal investigation.
Kenneth Reed, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, called Weekley’s demotion “a good first step” but said “a sworn officer’s oath is to serve and protect, not to interject their feeling about Black Lives Matter,” and called for the officer’s removal from the force.
“If that’s how he feels (about Black Lives Matter), I suspect that’s how he feels about everyday citizens in the community he serves,” Reed continued. “If he encounters someone in a city that’s 80 percent black who is questioning why they’re being accosted, who knows what might happen?”
Police must be held to a higher standard, Craig said at a news conference at DPD headquarters.
“It’s not about white or black,” Craig said. “When you put on this uniform, you can’t make statements that contradict what we stand for as a department.”
Detective, explained Sgt. Michael Woody, is an “appointed rank” that the chief can give or remove at his discretion.
A second Detroit Police Department official, a sergeant, is also being investigated for a controversial Facebook post, Craig said at the press conference. In a statement later Monday night, the department said the sergeant had been reassigned and placed on restricted duty pending the outcome of that investigation.
Craig acknowledged that tensions were high for officers after five of their counterparts were killed in Dallas last week, but said that was no excuse. Detroit police over the weekend arrested four Detroit men for allegedly threatening on Facebook to kill police officers. As of Monday evening, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said it hadn’t received warrant requests from DPD.
“We’re gathering information to put a package together,” Sgt. Michael Michael Woody said. “They should have it in the next day or so.”
The Weekley controversy is one of a handful of instances reported nationally in which officers have been disciplined for speaking out on social media after the Dallas shootings.
Weekley will be reassigned, Craig said, but Sgt. Michael Woody said it was not yet clear where.
“We have manpower issues,” Woody said. “We don’t want to make an arbitrary decision based on current events.”
Detroit police union representatives could not immediately be reached.
Nathan Weekley is the brother of Joseph Weekley, a former SWAT officer for the Detroit police force, who was reassigned after fatally shooting 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a May 2010 raid at her east side home. After two mistrials, the charges against Joseph Weekley were dropped, and he returned to the department on “limited duty” after a five-year absence in April 2015.
In the wake of the attack on Dallas officers and the deaths of two African-American men at the hands of police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota, at least six other police officials have faced disciplinary measures from activities on social media.
In Kansas, the Overland Park Police Department fired officer Rodney Wilson on Friday after he made a threatening comment about a photo LaNaydra Williams posted of her daughter in 2014, according to ABC 12. He wrote: “We’ll see how much her life matters soon. Better be careful leaving your info open where she can be found :) hold her close tonight, it’ll be the last time.”
An Anderson County, Kentucky, sheriff’s employee was fired over a racially charged, profanity-laced Facebook post, LEX 18 reported.
Nashville officer Anthony Venable was decommissioned Thursday after he wrote, “Yeah. I would have done 5” on Facebook, according to The Tennessean. The remark appeared to be in reference to four shots from police that killed Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Fox 13 reported the Memphis, Tennessee, Police Department suspended two officers with pay the day of the Dallas shootings after one posted a photo on Snapchat of hands holding a gun pointed at an emoji of a black person running.
And Haywood County, North Carolina, Deputy Andrew Sutton was suspended over comments on Facebook on Thursday saying “I usually shoot people on Facebook too” and “Next time you see the police take cover we shoot for anything,” according to WSOCTV.com.
Meanwhile Monday, Oakland County pastors expressed unity with police in a prayer service at Welcome Missionary Baptist Church.
“This is a troubling time and there seems to be a loss of respect,” Pontiac Pastor Douglas P. Jones said. “Each of us is impacted by what happens — policemen and private citizens. We forget that someone’s son, daughter or grandchild may be among the victims. We lose sight of those who work feverishly for us every day. ...
“It’s time we come together.”
At the Pontiac church event, Auburn Hills Police Chief Doreen Olko said her officers have been receiving countless “thank yous” since the Dallas shooting. “There are a lot of good things happening out there — you just don’t hear about them,” she said.
Staff Writers Mike Martindale and Breana Noble contributed.