Action on Palmer police chief’s protest-inducing statements still pending

The outside of the Palmer Police Department. June 7, 2020 (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

Two weeks, one protest and one city council meeting later, and the city of Palmer has made no decision yet on how to handle statements by its police chief calling the Black Lives Matter movement a “hate group” and questioning the honesty of sexual assault victims.

Palmer Police Chief Dwayne Shelton’s Facebook posts are from 2018 and circulated widely in early June amid nationwide protests against racism and police use of force in the wake of George Floyd’s death. In a June 2nd press release, the city of Palmer called Shelton’s statements “inappropriate” and announced he had been suspended with pay.

Several days later, a protest drew thousands to downtown Palmer, and after that according to KTVA-TV, there were hours of public testimony at a Palmer City Council meeting about whether Shelton should keep his job.

Palmer City Manager John Moosey said Wednesday — his third day on the job after nearly nine years as the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Manager — that a review of Shelton’s statements continues.

“This is a personnel issue, but I will say that our citizens and our visitors need to feel confident that they’re being treated fairly and equally, and we’re all learning that words do have an impact,” Moosey said.

Moosey said the review includes looking at Shelton’s past conduct as a Palmer police officer and chief, and that Moosey, as city manager, will make any decision on how to proceed with Shelton soon. Moosey said he is also looking at the Palmer Police Department as a whole.