LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and civil rights groups on Wednesday called for the resignation or firing of the head of the State Police for sharing a Facebook post calling NFL players who protest during the national anthem "anti-American degenerates."
The caucus, which is comprised of 22 Democratic legislators, said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue — who has apologized — can no longer be trusted to fulfill her duties in an objective and unbiased manner. Liberal activists, the American Civil Liberties Union and at least one Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Abdul El-Sayed, also called for her ouster.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will not ask her to step down, spokeswoman Anna Heaton said.
"The colonel said she made a mistake and publicly apologized," she said. "She has served with distinction as an outstanding public servant for decades."
The post Etue shared on Sunday, which was signed "we the people," calls the protesting players "millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans." It also calls them "rich, entitled, ungrateful."
The post angered lawmakers, especially in Detroit, where a white state police trooper last month fired a Taser at an unarmed black 15-year-old, Damon Grimes, during a chase before the teen crashed an all-terrain vehicle and died.
Sen. Vincent Gregory, a Southfield Democrat and former sheriff's detective, said during a contentious state Senate debate that law enforcement officers are "held to a higher standard" and Etue must meet "an even higher standard."
"We have now a colonel, the leader of the state police, that has now shown a distinct bias toward a group of citizens in the state of Michigan," he said. "So my question is, 'How can she continue to do this job when she's shown a bias?'"
The ACLU of Michigan said Etue "undermined her leadership and may have irreparably damaged MSP's relationship with communities of color."
But Republicans defended Etue.
Sen. Rick Jones, a former sheriff from Grand Ledge, said Etue has worked to recruit more women and minority troopers. He said the meme she shared was on her private Facebook page and that she has the same First Amendment rights as the protesting players.
Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Canton Township Republican who is running for governor, called Etue "a woman of honor, integrity" and urged NFL players to not "protest a symbol of our unity."
Yet in an impassioned response, Sen. Coleman Young II, a Detroit Democrat, said residents are "incensed" by police actions such as those leading to the death of Grimes. Trooper Mark Bessmer is accused of firing a Taser at Grimes from his patrol car after the teen — suspected of driving his ATV illegally on the road — refused to stop. The teen crashed the ATV and died.
"These are our babies, these are our children," Young said. "A job as a man, as a parent is to make sure that your child makes it and becomes what he wants to be. That's why we're protesting. That's why we're fighting because we believe in the American spirit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We're not protesting the flag."
The taking of a knee during the national anthem was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to social inequality and police treatment of blacks. No team signed Kaepernick last offseason, which many believe is because of the stand he has taken.
Etue, the first female director of the State Police, has led the nearly 3,000-employee agency since 2011, when Snyder appointed her.
Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/David%20Eggert .