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Protesters want police chief ousted over tweets glorifying police brutality

Posted at 6:31 PM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 21:41:19-04

SHELBY TOWNSHIP (WXYZ) — "He needs to resign," said Shelby Township resident Armena Pollard about Police Chief Robert Shelide who came under fire Thursday after he was accused of being behind tweets that glorify police brutality on those protesting and marching for racial equality and justice in the killing of George Floyd.

Chief Shelide is accused of tweeting that it is "Shameful and embarrassing to the real police" when officers kneel with protesters.

In one tweet, the user who calls himself "Bobby S" and uses the twitter handle @sheepdawg711 wrote, "We have lost the country to bottom feeders, savages, and weak anarchists."

Amy Hollifield, who attended Friday's protest that began near township offices and ended along Van Dyke, called words the chief allegedly used racist code words. "It's racism and it's not acceptable," she said.

"They have to get rid of him," said Roseann Follebout who has lived in Shelby Township for 47 years.

Action News talked to attorney Deborah Gordon who specializes in employment, discrimination and civil rights matters. "It's certainly not a crime for him to say exactly what he said. He has the ability to do that under the First Amendment. That's ironclad," said Gordon who added that it does not mean the township has to keep the chief on the payroll for comments that may have an adverse impact on the community, the police department and its morale.

In a statement, Chief Shelide said, "While an apology is insufficient and an insult to the gravity of my comments, I humbly and respectfully ask for the courtesy of forgiveness to those I have offended, to my department and more importantly to those I am sworn to serve. My record speaks to the commitment and professionalism that I have exhibited for more than 30 years without incident, both of which were compromised by my emotion. During my administrative leave issued by the department, I will cooperate fully with the investigation and seek the support and counsel necessary to ensure that my behavior and comments going forward more accurately reflect my character and person."

Attorney Gordon has represented police officers who have been retaliated against for speech that is protected by the Constitution and she said Chief's Shelide's case is one she would not take, calling his judgment into question.

"It's this kind of speech that makes it difficult for all of the other officers who have a legitimate point to make on social media," she said. "This kind of stuff, that the courts are not going to be in favor of, makes it more difficult for the next guy who has a legitimate point.

"So, if you're going to be on the public payroll, you better watch out how you are presenting yourself, much less if you wear a badge and carry a gun."