TRAVERSE CITY — An outpouring of support brought a tear to Marshall Collins Jr.'s eye after Traverse City residents learned a city police officer displayed a Confederate flag at a political rally.
Collins said he hasn't yet heard from Traverse City police officials following his run-in with city police Officer Michael Peters during a Nov. 11 "Love Trumps Hate" rally. Peters drove a pickup truck decorated with a Confederate flag to the rally at the Open Space, parked and drank a beer.
The flag drew a crowd, including Collins, who confronted Peters over what Collins considers a symbol of hate. Collins later learned Peters works in law enforcement.
"If you’re a role model to the community you do that on and off duty," Collins said.
Traverse City police Chief Jeff O'Brien on Sunday announced he suspended Peters.
"He is not working as a police officer," said Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O'Brien. "I do not condone his actions."
Peters' behavior was intimidating and not a reflection of the department's mission, O'Brien said.
O'Brien estimated about 100 people emailed him calling for Peters' termination from the department. He and department leaders launched an internal investigation into whether Peters' actions violated laws or the department's code of conduct. O'Brien said any evidence of illegal behavior will be sent to Grand Traverse County prosecutors.
Peters' union contract guarantees his pay during suspension and the investigation, O'Brien said. He penned a Facebook post that announced Peters' suspension and addressed it to Traverse City citizens.
"I hear you!" he wrote. "Let me assure you that we hold our officers to a higher standard and the flag incident will be fully investigated."
O'Brien said he has not yet spoken with Peters, but will meet with him Monday at 8 a.m.
"We will get through this," O'Brien said. "The community will get through this."
Collins, who is black, said Peters' suspension is warranted. He said he received many "very, very positive" messages of support from the community.
"I’m proud to be part of this community," he said.
Peters couldn't be reached for comment.