Sputnik reported earlier this month that moments before the beginning of a public county meeting on August 4, Eckerle was observed lashing out at a fellow commissioner who questioned his decision to not wear a mask.
“Well this whole thing is because of them n****rs down in Detroit,” he said of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns and masking policies, according to local newspaper the Leelanau Enterprise.
It’s worth noting that the road commissioner’s reported comments from the initial incident focused heavily on his views of Black Americans, and had little to do with accountability or acknowledgment of the known health risks of his defiance of the masking order.
Per Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-147, an extension was placed on a previous order mandating state residents wear a face mask or similar face covering when entering a public building.
Though “limited exceptions” were made for those who have a legitimate medical excuse preventing them from adhering to the order, it’s unlikely that Whitmer and other officials will consider Eckerle’s rant sufficient for such an allowance.
“I can say anything I want,” Eckerle replied after his comments were vocally condemned by a superior. “Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.”
Though there were initial doubts about the county’s ability to rightfully remove Eckerle from his elected office, State Rep. Jack O’Malley expressed in an August 6 news release that he had asked for the elderly man’s resignation “and shall he refuse, the citizens of Leelanau County have every right to recall him from office.” The Leelanau County Road Commission also requested that Eckerle step down.
At the same time, Eckerle’s apparently forced resignation, effective August 11, was not sufficient for Tom Swift, a part-time resident of California and Michigan. The 58-year-old confessed to vandalizing the “Leelanau County Road Commission” sign to read: “Leelanau County Racism Commission.”
“Now Leelanau has a stain that is nationwide,” Swift said, as reported by the Michigan paper Traverse City Record-Eagle. “I have a stake in this community and this is not the community that I know.”
“No, it is not racism,” Eckerle said just days before his resignation.
Sgt. Chad Walker, a 14-year veteran of South Carolina’s Columbia Police Department, is also now out of a job due to his use of the slur during a heated, five-minute discussion with a local Black resident earlier this month.
Unlike Eckerle, Walker expressed remorse, but also qualified his behavior with the fact that he was "upset over certain things,” according to NBC News.
"That's not me," he said during a Friday court meeting in which he presented his formal resignation.
Though it’s unclear what particularly agitated the law enforcement officer, the reignition of calls for police reform and the politicization of police officers by top federal officials, combined with the disproportionate police violence against people of color in the US - particularly Black Americans - has further divided the nation into a binary “good or bad,” “us or them” mentality.
While dualism is nothing new to the US, the lack of a substantive federal reform initiative or roadmap to repair the growing divide has been weighing on Americans both inside and outside of law enforcement.