14 Nov 2016

UPDATES | Officer Michael Peters Investigation

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NOTE: The Investigation Continues

If you have experienced or witnessed an incident involving Officer Michael Peters, or any other Traverse City Police Department employee, please contact Traverse City Police Chief Jeffrey O'Brien, you can reached him at (231) 995-5155 or via email jobrien@traversecitymi.gov

Probe continues into Confederate flag incident
TRAVERSE CITY — An investigation into a Traverse City police officer who drove a Confederate flag up to a political rally will continue after his resignation. Traverse City police Chief Jeff O'Brien said detectives continue to interview witnesses who saw former Officer Michael Peters at a Nov. 11 "Love Trumps Hate" rally. http://www.record-eagle.com/news/local_news/probe-continues-into-confede...

Newspaper poll http://www.record-eagle.com/opinion/poll-do-you-approve-of-the-way-chief...

The Incident

11-November

BREAKING: Officer Michael Peters drove a pickup truck decorated with a Confederate flag to a rally on Friday at the Open Space, parked illegally, and drank beer as he protested. He allegedly engaged in confrontation with citizens attending the rally..

12-November

BREAKING: A Traverse City Police Department officer is facing an internal investigation after attending a community rally Friday night with a Confederate flag displayed on his truck. The rally was held in the Open Space to protest President-elect Donald Trump. Multiple witnesses stated Officer Michael Peters, off-duty in civilian clothing, drove up to the rally displaying a Confederate flag, parked illegally, consumed alcohol outside of his vehicle, and then drove away from the event. TCPD Chief Jeffrey O'Brien confirmed to The Ticker he positively identified Peters from event photographs and is ordering an internal investigation. "I have told him to report to my office at 8am Monday morning," O'Brien says. "He is not scheduled on duty until then. I want to stress this is not how the TCPD presents itself or what we're about. We respect all different races, sexual orientations and creeds, and we are committed to making sure everyone is equally protected under the Fourteenth Amendment. We are going to have to look at his behavior and weigh his First Amendment rights and freedom of speech against his employment with this department. I concur with the concerns (that have been expressed), and we certainly know officers are held to a higher standard. But he has a right to due process, so we will be conducting an investigation." Peters, who could not immediately be reached for comment, is assigned to Traverse City's Community Policing Service Area 2, which covers the downtown district, Slabtown, the Governmental Center and Greilickville.

Confederate flag-flying officer suspended
Police chief to community: 'I hear you' http://www.record-eagle.com/news/local_news/confederate-flag-flying-offi...

13-November

UPDATE: Traverse City Police Department Officer Michael Peters has been suspended from the department following his appearance at a Friday night community rally where he displayed a Confederate flag, negatively interacted with protestors and consumed alcohol before driving away from the event. TCPD Chief Jeff O'Brien announced the suspension today in a public statement, telling community members he had heard their concerns and that "we hold our officers to a higher standard, and the flag incident will be fully investigated." Per Peters' union contract, he will be suspended with pay during the investigation. "Understand that cool heads will prevail," O'Brien said. "The officer has due process and also is protected under the Constitution. That process is sometimes slow."

14-November

An Open Letter to Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien
With an understanding that you are committed to the often lengthy path of due process, note that his recent conduct was dangerous to the safety of the community which your department is sworn to protect, and it has damaged trust in local law enforcement... http://www.democracy-tree.com/small-town-cop-flies-confederate-flag-love...

Officer faces criminal, internal investigation after flag incident
Peters had displayed Confederate flag before http://www.record-eagle.com/news/local_news/officer-faces-criminal-inter...

'This is the North, people'
TRAVERSE CITY — There's only one place Traverse City police Chief Jeff O'Brien believes a Confederate flag should be displayed: In a museum. But an incident at a Nov. 11 rally against President-elect Donald Trump brought such a flag in front of a divided community. City police Officer Michael Peters faces criminal and internal investigations after he drove a pickup truck flying a Confederate flag to a "Love Trumps Hate" rally at the Open Space, parked in a restricted zone and drank a beer. http://www.record-eagle.com/news/local_news/this-is-the-north-people/art...

Photographs of Peters circulated worldwide, prompted his suspension and two investigations by his employer of 18 years. Peters announced his resignation Monday at about 6 p.m., said Traverse City Manager Marty Colburn.

Video of official police department investigation announcement: https://www.facebook.com/TraverseCityTicker/videos/1143155339105646/

Officer resigns amid Confederate flag investigation
A Traverse City police officer under investigation for displaying a Confederate flag and drinking a beer outside an anti-Donald Trump rally resigned as photographs of the incident circulated worldwide. Michael Peters announced his resignation Monday at about 6 p.m., said Traverse City Manager Marty Colburn. Peters' behavior remains under investigation, City Manager Colburn said. http://www.record-eagle.com/news/local_news/officer-resigns-amid-confede...

15-November

Editorial: O'Brien's response sends a clear message
O’Brien had spent most of his tenure as chief working to build bridges with community members, to counteract a few prior officers’ behaviors that provided unequal treatment to citizens in his hometown. It was difficult work as he attempted to cleanse bad actions with good, to wash the department clean. And until now his promises of change hadn’t endured a significant test. O’Brien’s leadership during the past four days send a loud and clear message. http://www.record-eagle.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-o-brien-s-respo...

Comments

To be clear, Michael Peters problems began because he violated his contract with the City. This incident did not revolve around questions of "Free Speech" and/or "Political Correctness."

TRAVERSE CITY — A now-former Traverse City police officer who flew a Confederate flag at a political rally asserted he did so as a statement against political correctness.

"My intent was simple, because if there's one other thing that this flag represents, besides the proud hayseed lifestyle, it is the antithesis of political correctness," wrote Michael Peters in a statement provided to the Record-Eagle. "There is a rapidly growing segment of the population in this country who seem to be offended by anyone who dares present anything politically incorrect to them, and normal people are growing weary of it."

Peters' behavior stoked controversy following a Nov. 11 rally protesting President-elect Donald Trump. He drove up to the Open Space event in a pickup truck displaying a Confederate flag, parked in a restricted zone, opened a beer and drew a confrontation from protesters.

Photographs depicting the incident prompted nationwide attention, condemnation from city police Chief Jeff O'Brien — who called the flag a symbol of hate — and a criminal investigation into Peters' public drinking. Peters stayed quiet before and after his Nov. 14 resignation, until he hand-delivered a written statement to the Record-Eagle's office.

He declined further comment.

Peters wrote he wanted to clear the air on a misunderstanding from a large group of "Love Trumps Hate" rallygoers who expressed their First Amendment rights but took "extreme exception" to him exercising his own. He stated people across the country displayed the flag "not out of racial divisiveness, but to pay homage to (Southern) pride."

"I spent my formative years in the company of young men who were farmers and bull riders, drove trucks and wore cowboy hats, chewed tobacco and drank beer out of a can," Peters wrote. "Not one had a racist bone in his body, yet most displayed the rebel flag in one form or another, through belt buckles, shirts, or the flag itself. None of us construed this as racist, and none of us could fathom in this day and age how anyone could interpret it as such."

But Marshall Collins Jr., who confronted Peters at the rally, said his own experiences showed it was a racially-charged symbol. Collins, who is black, partly grew up in Florida and had to hide in bushes and under beds for fear of prowling racists who flew that flag.

The flag's history — from the Civil War to now — showed it stemmed from divisiveness, he said.

"First of all, it represents the split of our county," Collins said. "It was used over and over again to strike fear in a portion of our population, which would be the African-American portion."

Collins said locals who claim the flag stands for Southern pride should heed O'Brien's comment at a press conference: "This is the North, people."

O'Brien declined comment on Peters' statement. He said an investigation into the incident remains ongoing.

Peters wrote the Confederate flag evolved into a symbol far removed from its Civil War roots. He found it frustrating that self-proclaimed "progressives" would "stubbornly cling to this symbol as being racist in nature, and refuse to acknowledge the positive transformation that it had made over the years."

The statement closes with a reference to a "pivotal figure" who seemed outraged during the flag incident.

"Attempts are being made to reach out to this individual in the hopes of sitting down and educating each other on our vastly different experiences involving this issue," Peters wrote. "With any luck, we may be able to both leave the table with a little better understanding of the other's viewpoint."

Collins said if the statement referred to him that he'd be happy to sit down with Peters.