UPDATE, Wednesday, Nov. 16.
Officer Michael Peters resigned from the Traverse City Police Department Monday evening.
ORIGINAL STORY, Monday, Nov. 14.
A Traverse City police officer has been suspended after flying a Confederate flag at a public protest.
Officer Michael Peters, an 18-year veteran of the force, parked his Dodge pickup truck at the Open Space Friday next to a “Love Trumps Hate” rally. Peters had an American flag and a Confederate flag flying from the truck bed. Peters stepped out of the truck, and drank a beer while engaging with some of the protestors.
At a press conference Monday morning, Traverse City Police Chief Jeffrey O’Brien said Peters had been suspended with pay, and is now the subject of criminal and internal investigations.
O’Brien said he had met with Peters earlier Monday morning.
“I think he understands the ramifications of his actions,” said O’Brien. “I’m not here to judge him. We have a process that we have to go through, and we have to allow that process to be implemented. I’m asking everyone in the community to just be patient, and let us do our job.”
O’Brien said Peters may have violated a section of the police department’s code of conduct that describes “conduct unbecoming an officer.” The Traverse City Police Department’s “Values Statement” says officers will “embrace other points of view,” “exercise discretion,” and “appreciate diversity.”
O’Brien said it is not illegal to drink at the Open Space, but it is illegal to drink “next to a roadway.” He did not know if Peters was intoxicated at the time of the incident.
He said Peters had parked his truck, with the Confederate flag, at the police station on several occasions. After an informal discussion, he stopped.
“I don’t believe in the Confederate flag,” said O’Brien, who served in the Army in Alabama in the 1970s. “I witnessed a lot of racial segregation, not only in Alabama, but in the military. I personally don’t believe that flag has any right to fly anywhere. It should probably be in a museum.”
City Manager Marty Colburn and Mayor Jim Carruthers also condemned the officer’s actions.
“This is not what we expect from our city employees,” said Carruthers. “This isn’t what the city believes in, in my opinion.”
O’Brien invited anyone who witnessed Friday’s incident to speak with investigators Det. Sgt. Keith Gillis and Det. Evan Warsecki.