Palmer police chief suspended after ‘inappropriate’ 2018 posts surface, city says

View of Palmer. Photo: Flickr, AK_AV8TOR

The City of Palmer has suspended its police chief after a 2018 Facebook post surfaced in which he described the Black Lives Matter movement as a “hate group,” and another that seemed to question the legitimacy of reports by victims of sexual assault.

That’s according to copies of Dwayne Shelton’s posts on Facebook, shared widely this week in the midst of nationwide protests by Black Lives Matter and other groups over the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by Minneapolis police.

In a written statement, the City of Palmer says it “rejects the ideas contained in the past inappropriate social media postings.”

Shelton has worked for the Palmer Police Department since 1999 and was promoted to chief in December 2019. Shelton is now on administrative leave with pay, and the Palmer City Council is set to take up the issue — possibly including an executive session on any personnel decisions — at its next meeting on Tuesday.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries declined to say what she thought of the posts, because the City Council had not met yet.

“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. “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.”

DeVries said she is aware of a protest planned for Saturday in Palmer over Shelton’s posts, adding that she has not yet seen a permit for the gathering. She said she has heard from several owners of small businesses in downtown Palmer wondering if they should take precautions prior to the protest.