Michigan Police chief: ‘I am not resigning’
State Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue and members of the Legislative Black Caucus discuss their meeting Thursday concerning an “offensive” Facebook post. Michael Gerstein, The Detroit News
Lansing — The embattled director of the Michigan State Police on Thursday reiterated her apology for a controversial social media post blasting football player protests but made it clear she will not step down.
“I am not resigning,” Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue told reporters as she emerged from a meeting with leaders of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, which last week called on Gov. Rick Snyder to fire her.
Etue is facing criticism for sharing a meme on her personal Facebook page calling football players “degenerates” and “millionaire ingrates who hate America” because they knelt during the National Anthem.
Despite Etue’s second public apology, Legislative Black Caucus members are still calling on the State Police chief to resign.
“Our position has not changed,” said Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, “although I do think that the colonel is very remorseful in what happened.”
Gregory and other black caucus members who met with Etue declined to specify what was discussed and said they agreed not to disclose any details about the conversation until a later date.
Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, said he and colleauges are planning on meeting with Gov. Rick Snyder next week to discuss deeper issues of what he called systemic racism within the State Police.
“Oh, it’s far from over,” Neeley said. “We will be moving forward to get a positive outcome for the residents of the state of Michigan in a more meaningful way, where policy is corrected, where culture is corrected as it relates to policing urban communities.”
Neeley and others still called it a productive meeting and a good step, a point that Etue also echoed.
“Obviously, my comments on a personal Facebook post (were) very offensive, and I’m truly sorry, that was never my intent,” she told reporters.
“I’m going to stay focused on working throughout the state to make Michigan a safer place, and I will work with everyone in this legislature. Primarily we have some work to do with our minority populations.”
Snyder has said he will not seek Etue’s resignation but earlier Thursday acknowledged her social media post has strained relationships between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve.
“That wasn’t a good thing to do, and it does create some strain, as you can see by the reaction of the public, because it was inappropriate,” Snyder said at an unrelated event in East Lansing.
Etue first apologized for the post last week, and Snyder said he believes she did so “with sincerity.”
He noted state police have launched an internal probe to determine whether Etue violated the department’s official social media policy. Possible sanctions range from a written reprimand to a five-day suspension.
“I don’t agree with those statements,” Snyder said of the meme Etue shared on Facebook. “Again, I said she made a mistake. She did something wrong, but part of being human is people do make mistakes, and the key thing is you apologize and you learn from those.”
Black caucus leaders had initially sought a joint meeting with Etue and Snyder but will instead meet separately with the governor early next week, Neeley said.
Neeley said Wednesday, ahead of the meeting, that black caucus members were planning to discuss various issues with Etue, including the department’s ongoing efforts to increase trooper 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.
Democratic Rep. Erica Geiss, a caucus member from Taylor, would not say whether she believes Etue is a racist.
“I think there’s so much more that this issue boils down to,” she said, adding that there are “a lot of unconscious biases, there are systemic issues in multiple departments, not just here in Michigan but even in industry, and those are some things that are an unfortunate piece of the American fabric that we need to fix.”