The Kentucky State Police's (KSP) Facebook page has deleted a photo and changed its profile cover image after commenters criticized a photo posted Tuesday as "tone deaf" and offensive to people of color and the transgender community.
The photo, which showed a group of troopers and included text that read "Our color is gray, our gender is trooper," was originally posted as the page's Facebook cover photo Tuesday. The post received thousands of comments and shares, and while some were supportive of the message, many called for it to be removed.
By Wednesday evening, KSP had removed the photo as the page's cover image. By Thursday morning, it had deleted the post entirely.
"By reducing it down to color and gender, it's a message that says we don't take seriously the struggles people of color and trans people and trans people of color face," said Alyxander Rowan, a trans man from Kentucky who saw the post when it was shared by a friend on Facebook.
The post made him feel unsafe, he said.
"If I ever did need to call KSP for whatever reason...I don't think they would respect me or respect my gender," he said.
"Over the past 25 years, the Kentucky State Police has used the phrase to demonstrate that the agency is committed to racial and gender inclusivity," Kentucky State Police Sgt. Billy Gregory said in a statement. "Prior to today, we were unaware of any concerns raised about the phrase. Given that KSP is committed to providing professional services to everyone in the commonwealth and is actively pursuing a diverse workforce, we look forward to discussing and learning more about the concerns raised today."
Rowan, who said he and other friends had never heard the phrase before, felt the image was targeted toward vulnerable communities.
If KSP has been using the phrase for 25 years, Rowan said that it is time for a change.
"If they're really committed to serving and protecting everyone, then they need to issue some sort of new slogan that really does feel inclusive," he said.
This story was originally published by Katherine Collins on Scripps station WLEX in Lexington, Kentucky.