- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mike Halstead, a 35-year veteran of law enforcement, has retired from his role as chief of police for Surf City, North Carolina, less than two weeks after calling the Black Lives Matter movement “an American-born terrorist group.”

The police chief announced his retirement on Tuesday afternoon during an emergency town meeting held to discuss personnel concerns in the wake of an open letter published on Facebook earlier this month by Mr. Halstead, a white cop who held the town’s top cop post for the past 13 years.

In his 662-word social media diatribe, Mr. Halstead said that the Black Lives Matter movement was “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.” He claimed that BLM activists have been calling for “the murders of a race of people and a group of public servants,” and said he’s instructed his officers to “be vigilant” and take appropriate action when necessary.

“If that means shoot a thug, then do it and answer for it while you are still alive not dead,” he wrote from his personal Facebook account. The Sept. 3 post has since disappeared from his page, but archived versions indicate Mr. Halstead also blamed the Obama administration and civil rights leader Al Sharpton, among others, for creating a “race problem” in America.

The NAACP and other civil rights groups were expected to meet this week to discuss taking action against Mr. Halstead, but the police chief abruptly announced his own retirement on Tuesday afternoon during an emergency meeting.

Town officials promptly accepted the chief’s resignation and agreed to give him 60 days severance. Local media reported that he had originally planned to retire later this year.

In a statement afterwards, Mr. Halstead said he was “thrown under the bus” for expressing his First Amendment rights and said he had never intended to offend anyone.

Town Manager Larry Bergman told reporters that the Facebook post was in reference to the recent slaying of a law enforcement officer in Texas, and that Mr. Halstead “felt pretty passionate about it.” Mr. Bergman said previously that Surf City lacked any rules governing social media usage for employees, but on Tuesday he said that Mr. Halstead’s posting had violated a policy concerning how the chief is supposed to present himself.

Maj. Ron Shanahan will serve as the cop’s interim replacement, according to local reports. Meanwhile, supporters of Mr. Halstead stood outside the Surf City Police Department building on Wednesday morning to rally for the former chief.

“I was appalled to be honest with you,” local business owner Dorothy Royal said of Mr. Halstead’s ousting, local network WWAY reported. “This whole thing has happened so quick that nobody, none of the citizens had time to grasp what was going on.”

“I think he was venting frustrations and that’s the problem we have today,” Ms. Royal said. ” Nobody is hearing the law enforcement side.”

“If it had to do with something that the NAACP was getting involved and they were doing this to prevent any further problems, that’s not OK,” Ms. Royal said. “He deserved his right to explain. He deserved his right to talk to the people of this town.”

Surf City is situated on the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Wilmington and boasted a population of less than 2,000 as of the 2010 Census Bureau report. The Black Lives Matter movement came to light following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013 and gained momentum last year after Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot by a white cop in Ferguson, Missouri. 

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