Former Surf City chief unrepentant about Facebook rants
Posted October 30, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — Former Surf City Police Chief Mike Halstead says he was shocked when town leaders dismissed him over a Facebook post.
Halstead is one of many people who have found that taking to social media or email while angry can have consequences in the real world.
It was early September, after a number of high-profile killings of law enforcement officers, including that of a deputy sheriff in Texas. At the same time, communities were reacting to the police shootings of young black men that lead to inflammatory chants that were derogatory of law enforcement during Black Lives Matter protests.
"To me that just hit me wrong," Halstead said. "It's nothing more, it's nothing more than a terrorist group."
You're online. You're angry. Do this before hitting send Halstead took his uncensored anger to his Facebook page.
"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," his post read in part. The same post continued, "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."
Asked if he regretted what he wrote, Halstead said, "Absolutely not." While he said some might have been offended by his post, Halstead said, "That was not my intention."
Days after the controversial post, Surf City town council members stunned the chief.
"The mayor said that we've come to the conclusion, the decision that you to retire immediately, today, or you will be terminated today," Halstead recalled. "And I'm like what, wait a minute, that's not what you told me four hours ago."
Halstead said he felt he was thrown out "like a bag of trash for just speaking up, exercising my First Amendment Rights on my personal Facebook page."
In a statement to WRAL, Town Manager Larry Bergman told us the chief's racially tinged rant violated department policy.
"No one denied Halstead a right to free speech," Bergman said. "Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from its consequences, and Halstead himself implemented a department policy that negates his own claims of First Amendment violations."
Halstead's remarks, Bergman wrote, "called into question his ability to fairly and justly manage and lead a police department and jeopardizes the Surf City Police Department and the Town of Surf City's ability to effectively operate and defend against those that would question our public safety practices and ongoing criminal cases."
They also put his officers in danger, Bergman said.
"A police chief should not throw down a challenge to a criminal element. A police chief, in any kind of public forum, should exercise caution when describing departmental policy on the use of force," he wrote.
Now a former police officer, Halstead says the town was wrong to dismiss him.
"Instead of sitting down with me and talking like they should have talked and supported their police chief, they ran me out the door," he said.
Halstead still lives near Surf City and hopes to continue his law enforcement career elsewhere.