MARYSVILLE, MI — A Marysville police officer was disciplined Friday after sharing a racially offensive Facebook post earlier this month, according to Tom Konik, the city’s public safety chief.

The post, which shows a meme of an overweight Black woman wearing an “I can’t breathe” T-shirt above an image of a Will Ferrell character and the words, “Just unbutton your pants,” was shared by Officer Danielle Quain earlier this month.

However, a screen grab of the share began circulating more widely around social media Thursday.

“I found out about it probably about six or seven o’clock last night when someone forwarded it to me. It circulated on Facebook,” Konik said early Friday night. “We called in Officer Quain this morning because we were taking it seriously. That’s something we wouldn’t tolerate. We found out it was earlier this month. She acknowledged somebody had shared it and it showed up in her timeline. She said as soon as she was aware of it (being circulated further), she took it down.”

More on Marysville’s response

Konik said as part of their investigation Friday, city officials made contact with Facebook to confirm it was not Quain’s original post but shared from another party.

“As part of the investigation, we found some other issues that violate city policies,” he said.

The city of Marysville does have a social media policy, the chief said, that addresses some issues on employees’ private accounts.

“Even though we can’t restrict First Amendment rights, there is a code of conduct,” he said. That code can be stricter for police officers and fire firefighters as to not “cause her detriment in performance of duties or that she or the department are not being fair.”

Quain has since changed part of her name and Facebook imagery, Konik said, “because her family was being targeted.”Get the Daily Briefing newsletter in your inbox.

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The officer did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Calling out ‘culturally offensive behavior’

Concern from community residents and Black leaders varied Friday.

The Black Lives Matter Port Huron organization called for Quain to be fired in a post on Friday. Alphonso Amos, who chairs the chapter, said in a message, “We must not stand for any levels of racism in our community. The meme that was shared on (Facebook) by the officer was racist, and a city that claims to stand against it must now do so by making an example out of that officer” and further show “culturally offensive behavior will not be tolerated.”

Kevin Watkins, president of the NAACP in Port Huron, also expressed concern about the post.

In a message sent to members, he said the organization planned to “take the stand that if the police union gets in the way of discipline,” that the NAACP, BLM and SCORE, or St. Clair Organizing for Racial Equity, “will step in to challenge.”

Later, Watkins told the Times Herald he knew Marysville officials were working on racism-related issues, citing the two anti-racism resolutions approved by City Council members last Monday and the diversity committee founded last year by Watkins and former Marysville Mayor Dan Damman.

“We can’t kick them as they try to lift themselves up,” he said. “No, we reach down and give them a hand.”

Although Konik confirmed Quain was disciplined, he said she was not being terminated. He declined to disclose the disciplinary action.

“We can’t discuss personnel issues” as a result of “violations of policy,” he said. “I really can’t go into more depth than that.”

A perception of racism in Marysville

Marysville City Council members unanimously passed the anti-racist resolutions in response to the political protest and unrest after George Floyd’s death May 25.

One resolution denounces the killing of Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police, as well as Breonna Taylor, another unarmed Black person, killed by police in Kentucky in March. The other resolution declares racism and social inequities a health crisis.

During Monday’s council meeting, multiple Black residents voiced support for the effort. However, others voiced continued concern over the perception that Black drivers avoid driving through Marysville for fear of being pulled over by police.

“I hate that, I hate that, I hate that,” Mayor Wayne Pyden said Wednesday. “I indicated to those present that simply that if anybody ever feels that way and they have whatever reason, you know where to find me. … I said, I have all the confidence in Chief Konik that if some situation should ever happen, we’ll take care of it from the get-go.”

Konik said Friday that he was aware of the city’s perception. But he said learning specifics when he approaches individuals who’ve voiced concern has been difficult, and that past data hasn’t shown officers are “doing anything other than what’s expected.”

“People make those accusations that they’re afraid to come through Marysville,” he said. “… It just seems to be a stigma. But nobody can provide any information on anything that’s ever happened.”

In August 2019, a former council candidate told a forum crowded she wanted to “keep Marysville a white community as much as possible.” Those comments came from Jean Cramer, who dropped out of the race, and sparked a new countywide diversity committee that still convenes.