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Civil rights groups call for State Police Chief to resign, and "cultural change" at MSP

Detroit NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony led the call for "insitutional" change at MSP.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Detroit NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony led the call for "insitutional" change at MSP.

The Detroit chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights advocates say the Michigan State Police has a race relations problem, and needs serious institutional change.

Some leaders, including Detroit NAACP leader Rev. Wendell Anthony, called again Tuesday for current MSP Chief Col. Kristy Etue to resign.

Etue has come under fire for sharing a controversial Facebook meme that called NFL players who kneel  in protest during the national anthem “degenerates.”

But Anthony says Etue is just one symbol of a larger problem in the MSP.

“We think she should resign. It does not end with her resignation,” he said. “If you put another person in her position today, you still have not resolved the issues, institutionally.”

Anthony outlined some of those concerns in an NAACP letter to Gov. Snyder last week. He wants a meeting with Snyder to discuss those concerns, as well as more data about diversity in the MSP ranks and efforts to improve minority recruitment.

Anthony and others say they’re concerned the department is “going backward” in that regard since 1993. That’s when the federal government lifted a consent decree that had monitored state trooper hires.

Since then, Anthony says the percentage of black state troopers has fallen from 12% to just over 6% now.

Anthony and other leaders say tensions are running particularly high in Detroit, after 15-year-old Damon Grimes was killed in a police pursuit this summer.

Grimes crashed his ATV and died after one state trooper tasered him from a patrol car. That trooper has since resigned from the MSP.

Mark Fancher is an attorney with the Michigan ACLU. He too called on Etue to resign, but added she’s just one symbol of a growing “rift” between police and communities of color.

Fancher says activists can, and will, continue to agitate for change from the outside. “But ultimately, the only thing that will actually make a real difference is if the culture of law enforcement changes itself,” he said.

Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for Gov. Snyder, indicated he’s “happy to meet” with Anthony and other civil rights leaders, and “hear their concerns.”

Heaton said the governor wanted to meet with members of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus first. Snyder met with the Caucus today.

So far, Snyder has stood by Etue and says he has no plans to remove her.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story reported the facebook meme shared by Etue black NFL players who took a knee during the National Anthem "degenerates" - but the meme did not specify any race. The story has been corrected.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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