Black caucus official blasts Whitmer’s pick to head state police

    Sherry Gay-Dagnogo

    A leading critic of the Michigan State Police has given Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer’s choice to head the agency a thumbs-down.

    Joe Gasper

    Whitmer has tapped Captain Joe Gasper, a white male, to lead Michigan State Police (MSP).

    Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) told the Advance she is “very disappointed.”

    “Many African-Americans took a chance pushing for historic change,” the executive vice chair of the Legislative Black Caucus said. “This movement can’t be purely about a #MeToo women’s movement if women who are put in place don’t seize the opportunity to use our collective power to right structure leadership reflective of our respective communities.”

    Gasper, who first joined the MSP in 1998, has served in a variety of local, state and national leadership roles in his career. The Grand Rapids resident earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Michigan University.

    “Captain Gasper brings both extensive experience and a fresh perspective to this critical position,” Whitmer said through a press release issued today. “He is dedicated to protecting our citizens and will be instrumental in ushering in a new generation of leadership at the Michigan State Police.”  

    The Advance reported earlier this month that MSP has struggled with racial and gender diversity over the years. In 1975, the U.S. Justice Department sued the MSP, charging that it discriminated against minorities and women. That year, only 25 of the MSP’s 2,007 troopers were black. The agency currently has 2,032 troopers. MSP’s current director, Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, is female, but only about 19 percent of the force are people of color and women. Women alone compose 9.5 percent of the force; 6.1 percent are African American.

    Wendell Anthony

    The Rev. Wendell Anthony, Detroit NAACP president, told the Advance earlier this month that the race of ethnicity of the MSP leader isn’t as important as the programs and strategies that s/he offers to achieve diversity.  

    “I’ll take he or she if they are white, brown or yellow,” Anthony said. “(We) want someone who is committed to the community and what the community needs.”

    “Just because we got the same skin don’t necessarily make you my kin. We got [U.S. Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas, who hasn’t supported anything that lifts up black America. I’ll take anybody who is consistent and is concerned about lifting up everybody and bring about some change that is going to benefit the people of Michigan.”

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.


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