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Shelby Township trustees vote to suspend police chief after comments supporting police brutality

Posted at 5:17 AM, Jun 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-17 17:01:52-04

SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — Trustees voted 5 - 2 to suspend the Shelby Township police chief after he admitted to making comments on Twitter glorifying police brutality. The 30-day suspension will be from June 17 to July 17. Township board members also motioned to have Chief Robert Shelide take cultural awareness training and a de-escalation program to be completed within 60 days.

Shelide spoke during Tuesday's meeting saying, "I am not a racist," and that he apologies if his comments offended anyone. But he contests that his social media comments were taken out of context.

Several Michigan residents, from Shelby Township and surrounding metro Detroit cities, spoke during Tuesday's public meeting, providing comments in favor and against Shelide.

A motion was made by board members to suspend Shelide for 30 days without pay, while requiring him to take cultural awareness and de-escalation training.

The motion was carried by a majority vote, with just two members of the board moving for Shelide to be fired.

Supervisor Rick Stathakis and board member Vince Viviano countered the majority saying that Shelide must be removed, Viviano adding that he thought Shelide would have resigned on his own.

"(His) statements reflect a fearful, toxic attitude toward non-white Americans," Stathakis said adding that Shelide has let down Shelby Township and has let down America.

The breakdown of the vote is as follows:
Rick Stathakis - No
Stanley T. Grot - Yes
Michael Flynn - Yes
Lisa Casali - Yes
John Vermeulen - Yes
Vince Viviano - No
Lynn Wilhelm - Yes

On Monday night, a group of demonstrators called for the firing of Chief Robert Shelide.

"There's nothing that's going to help this guy change his attitude and his heart," a protester said. "If he's a racist, he's a racist. If he's a bigot, he's a bigot."

In his tweets under an alias, the chief referred to looters as "subhuman" and "wild savages that should be in body bags" following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Shelide is currently on administrative leave and faces disciplinary action. Some Shelby Township residents want township trustees to remove him from his post permanently.

"I feel pretty strongly about my police chief speaking as violently and with such undertones of racism," resident Victoria Kohl said. "I came here to live among my neighbors, to look forward to a solid community and it's ripping us apart."

Demonstrators are calling for an oversight committee for local police departments and for people to vote out elected officials in their communities who don't take action when these issues arise.

There have been a number of residents who support the chief.

Additionally, a law firm is doing an independent investigation into Shelide for the township.