Ex-police chief responds to retirement after 'Black Lives Matter' post: "I have done nothing wrong"

Published: Sep. 15, 2015 at 6:35 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2015 at 4:57 PM EDT
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Former Police Chief Halstead leaving after commissioners meeting. (Source: WECT)
Former Police Chief Halstead leaving after commissioners meeting. (Source: WECT)
Group voices their support for Halstead on Wednesday. (Source: WECT)
Group voices their support for Halstead on Wednesday. (Source: WECT)
"I am humbled and am very very grateful for the love and support from thousands from all over...
"I am humbled and am very very grateful for the love and support from thousands from all over the world," Halstead responds to the support after his retirement. (Source: WECT)
Supports gather again on Friday to rally for the former chief. (Source: WECT)
Supports gather again on Friday to rally for the former chief. (Source: WECT)

SURF CITY, NC (WECT) - Surf City Police Chief Mike Halstead has retired effective immediately following an emergency meeting called in reference to a Facebook post he made on September 3. Major Ron Shanahan will take over as the interim police chief.

Mobile users: Watch RAW video of Halstead leaving the commissioners meeting

The Facebook post read:

Open letter from a Police Chief , this Black Lives Matter group is nothing more than an American born terrorist group brought on by the lie of the hands up don't shoot during the criminal thug Michael Brown incident. The FBI and other Government Law Enforcement groups need to step up and put a stop to this. The Government and blacks would not tolerate the White Supremacist group to march through the streets and call for the murders of a race of people and a group of public servants. I agree there is a race problem in this country. It is not brought on by police officer doing their sworn duty, it is brought on by the government, the President and his cronies Al Sharpton, who is a criminal tax evader (but has the support of our so called President), Jessi Jackson, Eric Holder and that ignorant S.O.B. Farrakhan who should be charged with solicitation for murder, lord knows a white man would be arrested for the same actions of idiot Farakhan. I am sure there are many hard working Black people who will agree with me. I have been a Police Officer for 35 years. I do not judge anyone by the color of their skin, but by there actions. A criminal is a criminal whether a police officer or any other profession. I will not state statistics because black lives matter do not care or believe proven statistics. I put allot of the blame for these cop murders on the media and the way they report police related shootings. There is no need to list or even state the race of a person shot by the police. It is more important to wait for the facts and report those. But and a big but that does not make money for these greedy media ass holes. When a black thug is killed by the police they are all over it as is Mr. Barack Obama. However when a police officer white, black or any race is murdered for doing his job the media is short with it's reporting or not at all. When a white person is killed by a black officer you hear nothing. Has our so called President spoke publicly about these murders of police officers by blacks, HELL NO he has not. Step up Mr. President, or step down because we do not need you. Has our Attorney General spoke against these murders, no of course not because she was appointed by Barack Obama. Now let me say this, and this is not a threat but common knowledge. I have instructed my officers to be vigilant, if threatened take appropriate action. If that means shoot a thug, then do it and answer for it while you are still alive not dead. Law Enforcement is fed up with this murderous society who want to take out those who protect and serve. Imagine if all law enforcement shut down for just 1 day. There would be murders, rapes, robberies, you name it. America wake up, all of you black, white, Mexican whatever you need the police, we do not need you. End this Black Lives Matter bull shit and start a movement that all lives matter. As for the New Black Panther movement who wants to kill whites and cops, go for it, we are ready for you. You take one of us and there will be 100 who will step up and end you. This letter is not meant to offend anyone, just the feelings of a man who has spent the last 35 years of his life serving and protecting, for what so a thug can take it or to be treated as a criminal by the very people I swore to protect. Let's get this around folks so maybe our President and the media will get a wake up call. Be safe all of my Brothers and Sisters in blue, not white, black, yellow or brown BLUE.

Halstead was asked to retire because of the post and town council was considering terminating him if he did not, according to Surf City Town Manager Larry Bergman. A statement released by the Town of Surf City, read in part:

In early September 2015 the former Chief made divisive comments on his personal Facebook account that were inconsistent with Surf City Police Department Social Media Policies.  His comments and chosen platform were not representative of the Town's expectations of a professional police chief.  His actions ultimately left the Town management and elected officials difficult decisions where no positive outcome was possible.

Town leaders and Halstead agreed to 60 days of severance pay. Bergman said the town council agreed to that primarily because it would take awhile for Halstead's retirement to kick in.

The Surf City Police Department's social media policy states employees are free to 'express themselves as private citizens on social media sites' as long as it does not 'negatively affect the public perception of the department.'

It goes on to say, 'When using social media, department personnel should be mindful that their speech becomes part of the worldwide electronic domain. Therefore, adherence to the department's code of conduct is required in the personal use of social media. In particular, department personnel are prohibited from the following: Speech containing obscene or sexually explicit language, images, or acts and statements or other forms of speech that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals.'

"He put that information out, that was intended for his friends and colleagues and peers, but it was a public statement and there are people that were offended," Bergman said.

Bergman said he spoke with Halstead about the post after it was brought to his attention. He said he reminded him "that as public employees we are often held to higher level of scrutiny and that even if it is a personal social media account and despite not associating himself directly to the Town in his posting, that some will draw the connection."

Bergman also said the chief is apologetic for how his statements have been interpreted, and that he removed the post on his own accord.

During a rally, in support of Halstead, he spoke to the media for the first time. Halstead read a prepared statement, and refused to answer any additional questions on camera.

"I wish to thank all of the residents involved, for this tremendous love and support and I would like to give a big thanks to Law Enforcement [and] Support[ers] for Media [Accountability]. To the thousands and thousands of emails and tweets of support, I am humbled and am very very grateful for the love and support from thousands from all over the world, not just local, and not just here in the United States.  I would like to clarify the meaning of 'thug,' it is not a racial term and it is not defined as a race of people. Police have been using 'thug' since the 60s and 70s. A 'thug' is a person who steals what you have – have earned, kills, maims, rapes and robs. I do apologize if I offended anyone with the use of the term 'thug.' I am not a racist person, and I have never been a racist person. Anybody who knows me will tell you that. I am a God-fearing loving man, and I am a Christian. I am willing to sit down with the Town Manager, Councilman Curley and Councilman Fowler to negotiate a proper retirement and retirement ceremony that every other Law Enforcement Officer who retires in this nation is entitled to for my 35 years of service, and 17 years of service with this Town without a blemish on my record. I have done nothing wrong and I have been thrown out the door. I was treated like a dog and I am just tired of it." said Halstead.

Off camera, we asked Halstead if he was apologetic about calling the Black Lives Matter movement "nothing more than an American born terrorist group," he responded that he was "absolutely not apologizing" for that.

Tuesday night, after the emergency meeting, Halstead responded on Facebook to the outcome of this incident saying:

"I want to thank you all for your support. I was forced to retire or be terminated. I had to beg for a 60 day severance to feed my family. That was the thanks I got from those I thought were family, I was thrown under the bus for expressing my 1st amendment rights and speaking the truth and concerns for law enforcement. I want to thank all of the folks in Surf City for your support. It was my pleasure to serve you. Thank you to my officers for your dedication, I will miss everyone of you. I would like to apologize to my family for letting you down. I also apologize to those I have offended, that was not my intent. I have served proudly for 35 years without a blemish. I guess to some Surf City Leaders that has no meaning. I guess I will learn to eat beanie wienies for a few months. I love you all."

Wednesday morning a group gathered outside of the police department holding signs that said "Honk for Halstead" and "We Support Chief Halstead."

"I was shocked and disgusted with our Town Council," said Brandy Cuff, who was part of the protest. "No other words, just disgust." She said Halstead was unfairly forced to retire. "We have freedom of speech," Cuff said."Someone who spent 35 years of dedicated service can't post his opinion, or have an opinion about that? Someone who has to watch his fellow brothers in uniform be murdered, he can't have an opinion? It makes no sense."

Cuff also said it was unfair that there was no notice about Tuesday's emergency meeting. Cuff said many community members would have come out to support Halstead, had they known about the meeting. "They gave no notice to the members of this community that have supported him for 17 years. They threw him under the bus and turned their backs on him."

"I wasn't ready for him to retire and I don't think he was either, he has a lot of great ideas that will make this community better," said Dorothy Royal, a resident and business owner in Surf City. "Halstead is a fantastic Chief. You can just pick up the phone and call him. He will talk to you, he will answer your questions. He has supported what we do in the community, we gave a gun safety camp this summer for kids that he was a sponsored of."

As for the post, she said she agrees with it and doesn't think it is fair that it caused him to retire.

A second rally was held Friday, and a third is planned for Saturday.

The group also plans to be at the next Town Council Meeting on October 6.

"It let me know that Black Lives Matter has a lot more work to do in our mission for equality and justice," said Patrick. "Also, honestly it was almost hard to dignify with an answer. It was so ridiculous, it was absolutely a ridiculous racially motivated statement. And coming from the Chief of Police was more was even more disappointing," said Sonya Patrick, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement. She said the post was concerning and discouraging.

She said she feels as though he should have been dismissed, and not allowed to retire.

"I think he should be removed from office, he shouldn't be allowed to benefit from a retirement package. He should not benefit from taxpayers dollars because these are issues, if he is bold enough to put it on Facebook, then this is part of his agenda since he has been in office. And it is not acceptable."

Furthermore, she said the statements were "dangerous and could cause further terrorism to participants of the Black Lives Matter movement, from those that do not understand what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for, this is why he should be removed rather than allowed to retire."

President of the New Hanover NAACP, Deborah Maxwell said that she brought the post to Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II's attention. He is the President of the North Carolina NAACP. She said they are going to release a statement.

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