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White police commander demoted after she posted photo of old T-shirt that local NAACP president deemed 'insensitive'

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Now a lieutenant, Kim Lund Voss said she posted the photo to point out a misspelling on the shirt and meant no offense

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Last month, Kim Lund Voss was a commander with the Minneapolis Police Department. This month, she was demoted to her previous rank of lieutenant, the Star Tribune reported.

And what happened in between was all due to a photo of an old T-shirt she posted to Facebook.

What are the details?

The photo shows a black T-shirt with the following text: MINNEAPOLIS POLICE HOMOCIDE [sic] DIVISION Our Day Starts When Yours Ends." In between the text is an image of a chalk outline of a body with yellow tape across it reading "POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS." Voss' accompanying message reads, "Attempting to organize the storage room and came across this gem! It pays to proof read before you hit 'print.'"

Well, Leslie Redmond — president of Minneapolis' NAACP chapter — got an eyeful of Voss' post and then hopped on her own Facebook page March 30 to take the white commander and the police department to task:

"I am very disturbed that a commander in the Minneapolis Police Department, Kim Voss, would post this," Redmond wrote. "I do not think this was about the misspelling of the word homicide. This shirt says that Minneapolis Police Homicide Division['s] 'day starts when yours ends.' This is extremely insensitive, especially considering the involved demographics."

Redmond also accused Voss of having called "a fellow officer the N-word" and criticized the department of having "too many officers like Commander Voss." Voss subsequently denied ever using the N-word.

The Star Tribune said some considered the T-shirt "insensitive to homicide victims in a city where most are young black men" and that others wondered if the "HOMOCIDE" misspelling was intentional since the shirt was printed when Minneapolis had seen a "series of murders of gay men."

What happened next?

The same day that Redmond's rebuke hit Facebook, Voss posted a follow-up message saying she took down her T-shirt post and didn't mean to ruffle any feathers.

"I am told that the photo of the 25ish year old T-shirt that I found in a storage bin came across to some as offensive," she wrote, adding that "my intention was not to offend anyone with the content of the message on the shirt but to show that misprints commonly occurred back in the days prior to spellcheck."

Chief Medaria Arradondo apologized for Voss' post and said it did not reflect "the values and transformational culture that we are as a department today," the Star Tribune said.

Voss was demoted after a meeting last week between the chief, Redmond, and other black leaders regarding the T-shirt post, the paper reported.

Nekima Levy Armstrong, a longtime civil rights attorney who also attended the meeting, told the paper that Voss should have known her T-shirt post had the potential to offend.

"Her intentions do not matter. What matters most is the outcome of the actions," Armstrong added to Star Tribune Monday. "As a leader within the Minneapolis Police Department she should have known that posting such an offensive message on social media would be highly offensive … not to mention to undermine public trust."

A longer note from Voss

Voss went back on Facebook Sunday to tell her friends she's now a lieutenant in charge of the Property Crimes Unit in the 3rd Precinct. And she wrote a whole lot more.

She shared that she "grew up in an area in Minnesota that was far from wealthy, and I am now a member of a mixed-race family. I don't actually know many that are not."

More from Voss' post:

"As my family in blue are from all walks of life and my blood family is no exception. We are perfect in this way. We get to share perspectives and experience. I would have it no other way. My daughter served in the Peace Corps in Africa. My Son is an accomplished musician. We celebrate the musical greats together, from Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong and of course Notorious B.I.G. I loved what Sean Combs (P-Diddy) did with Herb Albert and the Tijuana brass song 'RISE.' We sponsored foreign exchange students from around the world in our home when I was a child, and now as an adult and continued relationships with them as family members. It's also important that I make this very clear, I have never used the 'N Word' to describe or address anyone in my life, ever, especially not one of my brothers or sisters in blue! That is a lie! I will protest. I will not tolerate this type of besmirchment as I also have the duty to call it as it is. The words a few have used to describe are not true. It's not me. Not my family. Not my department. Not ever. Not on my watch.

"As for those of the LGBTQ community, a community that is rich with love and acceptance, I'm sorry, the guy that made the shirt just didn't know how to spell. When I said, 'gem" it was of sarcastic remembrance of a time before spell check and computers. "

The Star Tribune said Voss is married to a former Minneapolis homicide detective and started with the department in 1987, citing information from the department website.

How are folks reacting to Voss' demotion?

Voss' Sunday Facebook message attracted a number of comments that were resoundingly supportive of her, saying she "got screwed" and "sorry this crap happened to you."

"Sorry Kim," another commenter wrote. "You are the latest victim of the spineless caving in to the loudmouth know-nothings and do-nothings. Screw them all, hold your head up, do this new job in a manner that allows you to look yourself in the mirror and feel pride in YOUR service. Good luck, my friend!"

Jon Tevlin, a former Star Tribune columnist, commented to Voss that he doesn't know her but knows "of your reputation. I remember the shirt from 30 years ago. Posting was a mistake, but I think this is an overreaction. If I were still a columnist at the [Star Tribune], I'd write that. Good luck."

But one woman who knows Voss thanked her for apologizing and wrote "I deeply understand the hurt that is felt when reading the T-shirt. I won't get into why it hurts or why it's even offensive because for those who don't get it — it's because they choose not to." However, the woman added to Voss that "the negative things being said about you are not true and are an angry response to the unfortunate decision you made when posting that picture. I do not believe your intent was to hurt or offend anyone. But that's what happened, plain & simple."

The woman added: "I just hope this is a lesson you can honestly learn from & dig even deeper to really understand the sensitivities of our mixed race/mixed culture society. It has nothing to do with people being overly sensitive, but everything to do with how people should treat others. You've done this very well in the past & I know this one incident will not stop you from continuing to do great work in the future."

(H/T: Blue Lives Matter)

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