By Associated Press - Thursday, June 4, 2020

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska city has suspended its police chief following public complaints about a 2018 social media post in which he described the Black Lives Matter movement as a “hate group.”

Palmer Police Department Chief Dwayne Shelton also posted a message that seemed to question the legitimacy of reports by sexual assault victims.

Shelton has worked for the Palmer Police Department since 1999 and was promoted to chief in December.

He is on administrative leave with pay and the Palmer City Council plans to take up the issue at its next meeting Tuesday.

Shelton said Tuesday that he was awaiting a statement by the city and had not taken down the posts.

“I’m not making any comments or making any statements regarding it until we get direction from the attorney,” Shelton said.

A statement by the city issued Tuesday evening said it “rejects the ideas contained in the past inappropriate social media postings” by Shelton.

Shelton’s called the Black Lives Matter movement “a hate group plain and simple” in his Facebook post.

Another 2018 post drew attention to a video apparently asserting high levels of false reporting are common among sexual assault victims.

The comments drew public criticism amid national protests sparked by the May 25 death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd died after a police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

Derek Chauvin was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder. Three other officers who were at the scene were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Palmer officials began receiving messages from the public Monday about Shelton’s social media posts.

Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries said she asked the city attorney and human resources director to examine the situation.

City employees fall under a code of ethics, but the city also needs to balance the right to free speech, DeVries said.

“I do believe in freedom of expression and that people that are employees of the City of Palmer are not restricted from voicing their personal views,” DeVries said.

DeVries added: “Whether that affected his administration as chief of police, that’s something that, if the city manager has made that investigation, then that would be information he would pass on to the council.”

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