Michigan Police Chief Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue reiterated her apology for comments she posted on social media in which she criticized football players who protest at games by refusing to stand for the playing of the National Anthem. However, she clarified that she will not resign. On Thursday, Etue said, “I am not resigning,” after leaving a meeting by leaders of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. This was her second public apology. The group, which consists exclusively of Democrats, called on Gov. Rick Snyder (R) last week to fire her. Snyder said he will not ask for her resignation.
Col. Etue has been criticized for sharing a meme on her personal Facebook page that referred to the football players as “degenerates” and “millionaire ingrates who hate America” because they knelt during the National Anthem. Despite her contrition, the Legislative Black Caucus is still calling on the State Police chief to resign. “Our position has not changed,” said Sen. Vincent Gregory, a Democrat of a suburb of Detroit. He added, “although I do think that the colonel is very remorseful in what happened.”
Neither Gregory nor other Black Caucus members who met with Etue on Thursday would say what was discussed, having agreed not to disclose any details until a later date. Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, who presides over the caucus, plans to meet with Snyder soon to discuss what he calls 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.”
Speaking to reporters, Etue said, “Obviously, my comments on a personal Facebook post (were) very offensive, and I’m truly sorry, that was never my intent.” She added, “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.”
At an unrelated event in East Lansing, home to Michigan State University, Snyder acknowledged that Etue's statements have strained relationships between the police and the community. He said that the Etue's social media post "wasn’t a good thing to do" and "inappropriate.” Snyder said, however, that Etue has apologized “with sincerity.” All the same, the State Police are now seeking to determine whether Etue violated official social media policy. Sanctions may range from a written reprimand to a five-day suspension.
Before meeting with Etue, Black Caucus chair Neely said that among the issues he wanted to discuss are efforts to increase diversity in the State Police corps. As of March 2017, Michigan’s 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 Black Caucus member, would not answer directly whether she believes Etue is a racist. Geis believes that there are "unconcious biases" and "systemic issues" afoot in MIchigan and elsewhere that must be addressed.
Etue completed 25 years of service in 2011 and was eligible to retire during the following year. On Friday, news came that Gov. Snyder wants her to remain in office until the end of his term at the end of 2018. Etue will thus be able to "double dip" — collecting both her state salary and her pension — as of early 2018. In 2016, Etue had a salary f $155,000 and may be eligible for a pension of more than $80,000.
Under the terms of the Deferred Retirement Option Program of the Michigan State Police, she must retire next year. Snyder plans to re-appoint her upon her retirement so that she will serve through the balance of his tenure. While double-dipping is controversial, precedent was set by Snyder's predecessor, a Democrat. It was Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm who set the precedent, said a state government spokesman, who pointed out that former MSP Director Eddie Washington collected both an MSP pension and a salary as director from May through January of 2010. Rep. Neeley expressed his dismay that Etue may be kept on after her official retirement date.
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.