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New Jersey Health Exec on Leave After Calling Out Racist Behavior by Police

An executive vice president at a New Jersey-based health clinic was placed on administrative leave this week after allegedly authoring a racially charged Facebook post about school resource officers.

Michellene Davis, a corporate affairs officer at RWJ Barnabas Health, allegedly commented on a Facebook post on Wednesday linking to a article about armed officers hired to patrol elementary and middle schools in Fair Lawn.

“Who is going to train them not to shoot black children first?” Davis wrote under the post. She later deleted the comment, which did not appear on a public post.

Michellene Davis

Facebook screenshots.

Initially, the health exec claimed the comment was the result of her account being hacked, according to screenshots. By Thursday morning, however, Davis had posted an apology on Facebook, calling her comment “extremely insensitive and offensive.”

“My concern for the safety of schoolchildren and gun violence led me to react to a headline without thinking…,” she wrote. “Having a late sister and other family in law enforcement, I deeply respect the law enforcement community and appreciate their service and admire their sacrifice.”

Her apology wasn’t well received, as the remark had already sparked backlash among the community. Luis Vasquez, an officer of Fair Lawn PBA Local 67, called Davis’ comment “disgusting,” while others considered it  “anti-police” and flat-out “racist.”

“We are held to the highest standards and pride ourselves in our professionalism and our love for our community, especially our schools and children,” Vasquez wrote. “Michellene Davis is also a professional and is held to those same standards as every civilized human should be.”

Others critics have chided Davis’ employer for its handling of the situation, arguing the health executive was nearly fired for simply calling out racism and implicit bias among police.

“Data clearly shows racism in the policing practices of the United States, especially when children interact with the justice system,” one Twitter user wrote. “A Black professional calling attention to this important problem is not racist. Those accusing her are. We support Michellene Davis.”

Another chimed in, “@RWJBarnabas I wish you were more concerned about the actual Black people being shot that #MichelleneDavis was raising a concern about. The person who decided she should be placed on leave, ought to be placed on leave.”

Davis eventually bowed to the backlash, deleting her Facebook account altogether. RWJBarnabas has since kicked its damage control into high gear, a spokesperson noting that, “statements posted by Health official social media outlets are the only statements that represent the views and policies of the organization.”

Davis, a former attorney, joined RWJBarnabas in 2009 and soon became the first woman and person of color to serve as VP in the health system’s history, according to her website.

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