Lansing — The director of the Michigan State Police is set to meet Thursday with members of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, which last week called for her ouster over a controversial social media post.
Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue is under fire for sharing a meme on her personal page that blasted professional football players as “millionaire ingrates who hate America” because they knelt during the National Anthem.
The black caucus called the post “appalling,” questioning Etue’s objectivity and understanding of what athletes have called silent protests against racial oppression and police brutality.
“Our request for her removal still stands, but we’re open to dialogue to try to make sure that Michigan is a stronger and better place for all Michiganders,” said Rep. Sheldon Neeley, a Flint Democrat who chairs the black caucus. “That’s our ultimate goal, and having a dialogue is the first step to that end.”
Etue has publicly apologized for the post, calling it a mistake, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has made clear he will not ask for her resignation. The black caucus and American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan are among those who have called on Snyder to fire her.
Neeley said he initially requested a meeting with both Etue and Snyder but will instead meet separately with the governor early next week.
State police spokeswoman Shanon Banner confirmed Etue will talk with the black caucus on Thursday. She did not have any updates on an internal investigation over whether Etue violated the department’s official social media policy.
Neeley called Etue’s Facebook post “a wake-up call for many in the state of Michigan.”
“I’m unsure if it was a wake-up call for the administration or not, but I definitely know people were surprised that a person in her position would repost comments of that nature against people’s ability to be able to exercise their First Amendment rights.”
Neeley and other House Democrats last week locked arms on the floor during the Pledge of Allegiance, which members typical observe by placing their hands over their hearts as they look to the flag.
Their demonstration drew criticism from Rep. Tom Barrett, a Potterville Republican and member of the Army National Guard, who said that unlike football players, legislators took an oath to support and defend the Constitution.
The floor gesture was not intended to disrespect the flag, Neeley said, calling it an organic and direct response to Etue’s post by House members of various races and backgrounds.
Detroit Democratic Reps. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo and Leslie Love as well as Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Lathrup Village, are expected to join the meeting with Etue.
Neeley said black caucus members plan to discuss various issues with Etue, including the department’s struggle with diversity.
As of late March, Michigan’s enlisted state police force was more than 88 percent white and more than 90 percent male. The 1,875 enlisted officers included 121 African-Americans, 47 Hispanics and 14 Asians or Pacific Islanders. There were 187 women.