Michigan Officer Suspended For Being Seen Driving With Confederate Flag on this Truck

12072716_1667424273500592_762894970367373832_nThere is an interesting free speech case brewing in Traverse City, Michigan where officer Michael Peters was suspended Sunday with pay after he was seen off-duty driving a pickup truck bearing a Confederate flag. He was seen near a group protesting Donald Trump’s election as president. The case raises, again, the right of public employees to engage in protected speech in their personal time and private lives.

I have previously written about concerns that public employees are increasingly being disciplined for actions in their private lives or views or associations outside of work. We have previously seen teachers (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here) students (here, here and here) and other public employees (here and here and here) fired for their private speech or conduct, including school employees fired for posing in magazines (here), appearing on television shows in bikinis (here), or having a prior career in the adult entertainment industry (here and here and here).

In this case, O’Brien confirmed that a photo showed Peters at the rally Friday with the flag. However, the flag is a form of protected speech and there is no allegation that Peters invoked or referenced his public position. There is also no reference to an express threat as opposed to the fact that many view the flag as a hateful symbol.

What do you think?

73 thoughts on “Michigan Officer Suspended For Being Seen Driving With Confederate Flag on this Truck”

  1. He has every right to fly the Confederate flag; he has no right to be a cop.

    And with this behavior, he can no longer be an effective cop. This is Bradymaterial which is required to be turned over in every case in which he testifies. And the impeachment by the defense would be devastating.

    How many defendants does Traverse City wish to see acquitted just so they can keep a bigoted cop?

    1. Comments like this are akin to donating to the Trump reelection fund. PC is a major reason why he was elected and the left are doubling down on stupid. Not to mention crapping on the Constitution.

      1. Not talking PC here at all, Nick. I’m talking practicality and reality It’s hard to sell a bigot’s testimony to a jury (or sell the refusal to release Brady material to an appellate court). Of course, to someone who has actually dealt with the legal system and and is familiar with impeachment on cross-examination, this is hardly a revelation.

        Have you ever met anyone like that? Ya know, someone with real experience and not just wannabe internet daydreams?

  2. First a note, he’s suspended with pay, while they investigate further.

    He hasn’t lost his job and he’s not suffering any financial hardship.

    Second, based on this news account, the officer seemed to demonstrate bad judgment all around (not the most admirable quality in any person let alone a police officer) in the way he displayed the flag in the bed of his pickup (no it was not a small flag but a fairly large flag on a pole), drove around the protesters allegedly gunning his engine (seems threatening or at least a form of intimidation), and later stopped to have a beer next to his truck: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/michigan-cop-suspended-confederate-flag-anti-trump-protesters/

    I don’t let my employer dictate my speech, but I also recognize that in certain contexts I’m seen as a representative of my employer and I wouldn’t want anything to jeopardize that relationship–the consequence of being an at-will employee.

    A police officer has more responsibility to conduct themselves appropriately because they have the public trust. In light of issues that have come up with police forces throughout the country (e.g., Baltimore, Chicago), police should be working to repair public trust rather than antagonize citizens.

    I’m 100 percent behind the first amendment, but to quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.”

    1. Keep up sister. He ‘resigned’ this morning, and the city manager stuffed a statement of self-abasement into his mouth.

    2. A police officer has more responsibility to conduct themselves appropriately because they have the public trust.

      There is nothing ‘inappropriate’ about having a Confederate flag, except in the ‘minds’ of professional scolds.

      1. Sorry if my consumption of news doesn’t meet the speed you deem appropriate, dude.

        If you had read my entire post, you would have noticed that I wasn’t specifically calling out his flying of the Confederate flag but the combination of behaviors in context. Context is everything.

        Behaviors, even those protected by the first amendment, don’t occur in isolation.

        Actions, even those protected by the first amendment, have consequences.

  3. The Confederate flag is an assertion of Southernness. It wasn’t controversial 35 years ago when we were a lot closer to the Jim Crow era. Remember the General Lee and the era of Dixie kitsch in mass entertainment? There’s no need to harass this man. It’s just self-aggrandizing behavior by the usual jackasses. What’s distressing is that the character type which has long dominated the school apparat has now migrated to the police force.

  4. It is nobody’s business what you do in your private life. If we want people to serve in this capacity, we need to stay, the hell, out of their private lives. Celebrities like Sean Penn can stand up and shout their support for people like Hugo Chavez and does it hurt his career? This guy has every right to express himself as much as anyone else.
    There is WAY TOO MUCH JUDGING of others going on here. It is God’s job to judge and everybody else needs to display a modicum of Tolerance. We must not lose our way.

  5. This summer I fear they’re coming.
    They’re probably on their way.
    It’s probably Spring time For Hitler.
    Gonna get down to it.
    Soldiers are cutting us down.

  6. Nick

    You typify the dupes found in every country. Ranting and raving you elect the oligarch, privileged, corrupt, cheat, liar, mud slinger of all time to protect your rights. You’ll be proud of yourself as you parade around your ‘rights’ as Trump and the 1% further tank this country. I may be Candadian/American but you are several bricks short of a true American load. Now excuse me while I go and take a Trump. But I will take it in the appropriate place, not on the American ideal. If ever there was a con man and a con job, we have just witnessed it.

      1. Olly

        I had to read the drivel thrown at Obama, one of the greatest Presidents yet, for years. Now that the dupes have elected a joke, a shame, the laughing stock of all time, someone who will drag this country, again, back a generation or two, yeah, it ain’t over. As for being constipated, no, I took a royal Trump this morning. All systems go. Turley posts these articles for just this reason, free speech. The only difference is that I am not a cop and am not a racist, nor a bigot.

        1. Maybe now if we disagree about a policy or decision, we can make an actual case for why we disagree instead of everything being attributed to being a racist, a bigot. That’s all we have heard for 8 years. If you disagree with or criticize Obama you are a racist – and he gets to hide behind his racial suit of armour – so there is never any chance for real discussion. Let’s hope we start to move beyond racial and identity politics. This election, in part, was much of America saying ENOUGH.

        2. “I had to read the drivel thrown at Obama”

          Were you chained to your computer with your eyelids forced open with toothpicks? For a guy that is fond of insinuating we are a “backwards” country, you are a neanderthal when it comes to articulating a point. It’s very clear that you and I do not share the same worldview and therefore we have a different vision for our future. You are free to find a site where others aren’t posting “drivel” that you have to endure reading or stay here and make a case that supports your worldview.

      2. Olly,
        I think it’s more than two times that Issac said he “had to take a Trump”.
        He was only able to use his “lesser of two evils” spiel about a hundred times, but now that the election is over, that “fresh saying” is far less relevant.
        If Clinton had been elected, Issac could have found more use for his “midget cowboy” and “three stooges” meme.
        Just as with Obama, every mistake of a Hillary administration would have been “Bush’s fault”.
        Since Trump won, Issac won’t be nearly as inclined to use that “it’s all Bush’s fault” line.
        He barely got to trot it put a few hundred times during Obama’s presidency, was looking forward to repeating it more often to excuse any mistakes of a Hillary administration, but now that Trump won, “it’s all Bush’s fault, midget cowboy, and three stooges” won’t be as useful to Isaac.
        That’s a shame, because Isaac managed to keep those phrases so fresh even after he used them again and again and again and again.
        Issac finding a new phrase is like a little kid showing off a new word that he learned.
        I’m sure he’ll be telling us more about “taking a Trump”, and that he’ll keep it “just as fresh” as all of his other stock sayings.

        1. tnash,
          Oh, I expect his blind spot for all things Democrat hasn’t gone away. Issac is that Alfa Class submarine skipper in The Hunt for Red October that was so fixated on the enemy that he blew up his own boat.

          1. Take off all the safeties and watch it come back at ya. There’s something Shakespearean in your reference. Nice

    1. Maybe we finally elected a true outsider who is a builder, a doer, a negotiator, a deal maker who says what he means, who can actually get things done and change things for the better? I can’t accept that anyone in their right mind doesn’t see what a mess, what a disaster a Hillary Clinton presidency would have been. There is no comparison. America made the right choice by electing Trump. No doubt about it.

  7. Political correctness was an under reported issue that was key in electing Trump. Liberals, like the Isaac the Canadian, are going to double down on 14[blackjack reference for non gamblers..doubling down on 14 is stupid] which we are already seeing. That insane strategy will get Trump reelected. Regular folks understand the assault on the Constitution by the left vis a vis PC. The 1st and 2nd Amendments became stronger on 11/8/16. Well, that is if Trump doesn’t go south on us!!

    1. With all due respect, I find the following “forecast” to contain a lot of common sense. Let’s wait and see, but this is not only possible, but likely (even assuming Trump’s intentions are indeed what he promised).

      […] Unless Trump does another about-face, rest assured that the policies of a Trump Administration will be no different from an Obama Administration or a Bush Administration, at least not where it really counts.

      For that matter, a Clinton Administration would have been no different.

      In other words, Democrats by any other name would be Republicans, and vice versa.

      This is the terrible power of the shadow government: to maintain the status quo, no matter which candidate gets elected.

      War will continue. Surveillance will continue. Drone killings will continue. Police shootings will continue. Highway robbery meted out by government officials will continue. Corrupt government will continue. Profit-driven prisons will continue. Censorship and persecution of anyone who criticizes the government will continue. The militarization of the police will continue. The government’s efforts to label dissidents as extremists and terrorists will continue.

      In such a climate, the police state will thrive.

      The more things change, the more they will stay the same.


      I agree that the left, in so far as one can define Democrats as “the left” has a huge problem with hypocrisy, if not with cognitive dissonance – but I get the feeling the right is setting itself up for exactly the same charge and likely the same results – some but not all of which they may like.

      As to the cop, I can’t see why he would even be disciplined unless his job performance was affected. Asking him to tone done his off duty expressions would be reasonable, I suppose, since a policeman is never really off duty except perhaps on vacation, but to discipline him for exercising his freedom of speech seems counter productive.

  8. I would question this officer’s judgment to express his speech like that during that protest. This would be an excellent case to show why we need to protect the 1st amendment. This officer may be a racist (or not). He also might be a very good officer able to separate his private life from his professional work (or not). By supporting his right to privately express himself we become witness to a side of his character that may otherwise be hidden. Without the 1st amendment protections we wouldn’t necessarily know anything about his private character. And then one day he’s involved in a tragic incident at work where that character is finally exposed. And everyone will be asking, “why would this guy be on the force?”

  9. The essence of the law gives individuals the right to express themselves, as long as they don’t incite violence or harm others. On the one hand this police officer is a member of the society protected by these laws. On the other he is supposed to be neutral and a defender of the laws and protector of this society. In this society, one that is so dysfunctional, the police officer should keep himself both on as well as off the job away from any and all overt political, racist, or other expressions. The Confederate Battle Flag is a symbol of racism in spite of the legal blather. The laws must remain neutral and applicable to all. In this society where residents accuse the police of bias and racism, only those who mindlessly adhere to the law, sans common sense, will support this idiot. The Nazis had laws and defended their constitutions, laws, and traditions right up to the last. What’s the difference between flying this flag advocating slavery and wearing a T-shirt with ‘Bring back Slavery’ written on it? Both are free speech and both are protected by the mindless. A police officer is a citizen, protected by the law as well as representing the law. Therein lies the rub.

    There is a certain anger underlying a lot of America, an anger at not doing so well economically. The essence of the problem is that this society is a herd of sheep flocked to be fleeced. A wolf came along and promised to set the sheep free. Half of the sheep agreed and now the essence of America’s problem, that it is an oligarchy run by the rich for the benefit of the rich, at the expense of the people, has resulted in the election of the biggest oligarch of all to the Presidency. Trump sold the illusion and the sheep bought it. The illusion was that they aren’t sheep but just like him. Now, excuse me while I go take a Trump. I’ll be back if Turley really does like free speech. But given that he’s a sheep who sees himself in wolf’s clothing, I’m not sure.

  10. I did 20 years in the Army, I was on duty 24/7/365 and would not be allowed to do this. I could not go door to door and speak about a candidate, or publicly endorse a political view / opinion. Police can carry their weapon open or concealed at all times (with a few “VERY FEW” exceptions), because they are always on duty.

    The real question is do they get it both ways?

    1. A police officer is a civilian who lives at home, and, yes, he is off duty some of the time. And, again, a Confederate flag is not an explicit political statement. It is a statement of cultural affiliation, affection, and assertion. It’s the view of the city manager in Traverse City that he should be ashamed of being a Southerner and that asserting he is not ashamed puts a ‘stain’ on the department. In a just world, the city manager would be slapped down for his essential asininity.

      1. Ummm, no. The Confederate flag was flown by enemies of the United States – traitors who took up arms against their own country for the cause of white supremacy and the right to enslave other people.

        From the Declaration of Causes of the Seceding States, Texas:

        We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

        That in this free government *all white men are and of right ought to be entitled to equal civil and political rights* [emphasis in the original]; that the servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations; while the destruction of the existing relations between the two races, as advocated by our sectional enemies, would bring inevitable calamities upon both and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states.

        I, at least, would be ashamed, and it does put a stain on the city – just as former officer Peters admitted in his resignation.

  11. Was it a cloth “flag” or a depiction of a Confederate Flag on a bumper sticker, or a faux license plate on the front? Just curious. If he is from Michigan then he cannot say that this is “just about my heritage”. Around here they say that was a Southern accent on the word “heritage”. If he had a great great grandpa in the Civil War fighting for the South and The Confederate States of America and he now lives in Michigan then he is an immigrant. Had his ancestors fought for Hitler or Stalin would he fly the Nazi or Communist flags?
    This particular dork needs to explain himself to a public committee which rules the police department and allow the public and the press to hear his thoughts and views on flying the flag.
    Perhaps he needs to be shipped back to Georgia, the penal colony.

  12. I’m no lawyer, but I don’t think he did anything wrong. I do think he has a lack of common sense. When I walk by a hornets nest I don’t stop to poke it with a stick. This blog however is a different matter.

  13. I think the right to free speech is so important that whether it was the confederate flag, a swastika, a rainbow colored flag, or a mexican flag, he has a right to express his views on his own time. Government employees should not be stripped of Constitutional protections.

    If the employer has problems with his belief system interfering with his job performance, that should be dealt with separately through private discussions of those belief systems and the employer’s concern about how it might interfere with his duties as an employee. If the employer and employee cannot resolve the disparity, then there might be either a mutual agreement to part ways or a firing based upon job performance, but not based upon the content of his speech.

    1. He thought it might cause trouble if he drove around with a sign on his truck that said “I am a racist.”

    2. Irrelevant.

      Most decent people would be repulsed seeing a flag with Hillary’s “H” symbol on it. As crazy as it is to drive around with a Hillary “H” flag, we can’t permit the use of government coercion to stop people from expressing themselves provided nobody else’s liberty is infringed.

    3. For the same reason I might: Confederate ancestors. Or perhaps he grew up down South. Why is this an issue with you?

  14. At first I’d agree that there was a miscarriage of justice.
    Then I thought about times I could have been fired for all manner of free speech demonstrations. I was in “at will” positions” and what I did may reflect negatively upon my employer.

    Free speech is guaranteed and not to be trifled with by the government. Nowhere in the Constitution is free speech guaranteed in the workplace.

    Now my question has to do with the officer’s measure of common sense. He is an officer of the law, not the jail janitor. But was he truly fully off duty?? Isn’t he still required to have his weapon in his possession? Might he not also be called to make an arrest or intercede in a robbery etc?

    1. He’s off duty. He’s a public employee. What the city manager is saying is that Traverse City has a staff ideology which makes it a firing offense to declare yourself Southern. Screw that and screw anyone who defends that position. An officer who babbled about sexual deviance on online fora would have a cause of action if he were fired many places. The justification for one and not the other is the Beavis-and-Butthead argument. Sexual transgressors are ‘kewel’ and Southernness ‘sucks’.

  15. If the information is complete, meaning that there is nothing alleged other than driving around the flag, this is not a sufficient violation to justify a termination. In fact, he should not have been disciplined at all.

      1. Roscoe P. Coltrane – Mark Fuhrman perjured himself several times, not only in a major murder trial, but on national television. He was toast.

      2. What does Mark Furhman have to do with anything? He was a Los Angeles cop with a history of vulgarities who intersected with a high-profile investigation. For reasons best known to herself, Marcia Clark never put his untainted partner on the stand to testify. He was a godsend for Johnnie Cochran, because he gave the jury the excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway.

  16. Is the same applied to the Hammer and Sickle or the Swastika Flag? If not why not ? Surely the two are more appropriate where the left is concerned. I’m guessing the ‘some’ in some might be offended by the Stars and Bars are left wing fascists of the progressive persuasion. George Carlin was soooooo right.

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