JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Johns Creek’s Mayor is promising a series of “listening sessions” to help the city heal from controversy over a Facebook post by the city’s police chief.
Chief Chris Byers is now on administrative leave while the city investigates new allegations against him, Mayor Mike Bodker said Monday.
In a 1000-word Facebook post on his personal page, Byers admonished clergy members for backing the Black Lives Matters movement. Byers said while he supports black lives and will fight against racism, he would not support the overall movement because he believes it’s inciting violence against him and his fellow officers.
After the post caused an uproar, new city manager Ed Densmore, the city’s former police chief, said he asked Byers to take some personal time away from the department.
Then, during Monday night’s city council meeting, Bodker announced the new investigation.
“Our community is hurting. Hurting over what is happening here in Johns Creek and hurting over what is happening across our nation,” he said.
In a statement released Tuesday, Densmore said of the new investigation: “Coming out of these conversations and explorations, I opened an internal investigation into allegations against Chief Byers unrelated to his social media post. In accordance with our city policy, the Chief has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of this investigation. Because of the ongoing investigation, the city is not a liberty to discuss the matter further until the process is concluded. During this period, Major Roland Castro will lead the department and work closely with me on all police matters”
During Monday’s virtual meeting, city clerk Joan Jones read nearly an hour’s worth of public comments both supporting and deriding Byers, who rose through the ranks to become chief a few months ago.
“I implore you all to fire police chief Chris Byers immediately,” one person wrote.
“His Facebook rant was racist, divisive, dangerous, embarrassing and concerning. It reflects very poorly on the police department and the city as a whole.”
Another resident came to Byers’ defense.
“Please do not fire Police Chief Byers. His post doesn’t warrant being fired,” the resident said. “People are just out to destroy people they do not agree with. It would be such a shame to punish this man for a Facebook post.”
Another resident commented that while she didn’t agree with Byers’ post or his position, she understood his point of view.
“The chief felt targeted. He felt abandoned. He felt lumped in with the bad apples,” the resident wrote. “He was worried about the safety and the emotional well-being of the officers he leads. All of these feelings are valid.”
Channel 2 Action News has attempted to reach Byers for comment, but so far, he has not responded.
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