“Anti-American, degenerates.”That is what Michigan State Police director Kriste Kibbey Etue said in a Facebook post meme about Black athletes in the National Football League who have been bravely kneeling in protests against police brutality.1 As soon as news broke about the post, people including the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus started calling for her resignation. She immediately apologized and said posting the comment was a “mistake.” Even some Black troopers in her department were appalled by the Facebook post. Governor Rick Snyder appointed Kriste Kibbey Etue in January 2011. Etue’s entire tenure as director for Michigan State Police is deeply entrenched in scandal and turmoil, she is not fit to serve.
Her apology is not enough. She’s already revealed the truth about where she stands–and we need to believe her.
Right this moment we are already living through a terrorizing White House that is building an agenda that attacks communities of color every day. We do not need any more people in public leadership positions mouthing off Trump’s white supremacist rhetoric. Communities need to feel safe and respected by public leaders who are trustworthy. Kriste Kibbey Etue has got to go.
Under Etue’s leadership, the Michigan State police department has a long and volatile history of misconduct and discrimination. Just this August, 15-year-old Black teenager Damon Grimes was tasered and killed by state trooper Mark Bessner. In a violation of policy, the officer fired the taser through a police vehicle window at him while pursuing the teen who then crashed his ATV.2 This same officer has a history of using excessive force, yet he remained on the job — even with several lawsuits filed against him. Not once did director Etue hold him accountable, instead Eute awarded the officer Bessner the “Lifesaving Award” in 2016.3 An entire family and community have been in mourning and Etue continues to turn a blind eye and refused to serve justice. This is why her post against police brutality protests is not just a “mistake”–it’s an indictment on her actual practice. And she needs to be held accountable for that.
Etue’s leadership of the department has created a hectic and hostile work environment for Black and Brown employees.Leonard Mungo, a Detroit attorney who has represented about a dozen black and white troopers in civil disputes with the department, said the posting demonstrates “kind of a dangerous mindset for someone in her powerful position.”4 Increasingly the department has received scrutiny and criticism for the lack of Black employees represented. With Etue’s Facebook post, and failed leadership as Michigan State Police Director, she makes it clear that she does not value Black people — not our leadership, not our lives.
Former NFL athlete Colin Kaepernick made a bold move by kneeling during the national anthem to protest the ongoing police violence against Black and Brown people. As he powerfully said: “I cannot stand for a flag of a country that continues to oppress Black people and people of color.” This was inspiring, this is leadership. This is change. We are now in the midst of a historic moment where NFL players, celebrities, and decisionmakers with the platform powerful enough to shift the entire country are all speaking out against police brutality. And Etue’s absolutely on the wrong side of history.
First, she called Black athletes who kneel “degenerates.” Now that the pressure is mounting for her to resign, Michigan State Police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue is trying to rob taxpayers. Tell Governor Rick Snyder to fire her now.
On Thursday, Michigan State Police Kriste Kibbey Etue met with the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus.1 Etue said she’s “sorry” for the Facebook post, again. But this is about more than just her words. This is about Etue’s terrible leadership to hold her own department accountable. The Michigan State Police department has an awful reputation of police violence, racial discrimination, several lawsuits and overall dysfunction. Despite this, Etue refuses to resign and is now making moves to double collect both her full salary and pension in a scheme to stay on until she’s expected to retire in 2018. She must be fired now.
Etue would be eligible to collect a taxpayer-funded pension of $84,000 and receive a full salary under a program that gives senior staff a special incentive to receive state money after maxing out their pensions.2 Clearly, she does not deserve compensation for upholding racist practices — nor should she be the Michigan State Police director. If Governor Snyder fails to fire her, he is saying yes to racism, adding more damage to the state of Michigan. Etue doesn’t deserve one more day on the job.
Michigan State police director Etue’s words are not just a meme on Facebook. It incites hate, violence, and attacks our communities. She represents the type of leadership that we cannot let continue to exist in this country. If Governor Rick Snyder truly believes in Michigan, he will put the people are first. He must do the right thing and use his platform to fire Etue immediately.
Until justice is real,
Rashad, Arisha, Scott, Anay, Clarise, Enchanta, Malaya, Kristen, Katrese, and the rest of the Color Of Change team
1. “State police director’s FB post: NFL players who take knee during anthem are ‘degenerates’,” Detroit Free Press, 09-26-2017
2. “State police director’s FB post: NFL players who take knee during anthem are ‘degenerates’,” Detroit Free Press, 09-26-2017
3. “Trooper in ATV death twice accused of excessive force,” The Detroit News, 08-30-2017
4. “State police director’s FB post: NFL players who take knee during anthem are ‘degenerates’,” Detroit Free Press, 09-26-2017