Update: Johns Creek places police chief under investigation

Allegations at the center of an investigation of the Johns Creek police chief are unrelated to his controversial social media post, according to the city.

City Manager Ed Densmore said he recently held discussions with people in the community, city staff and police officers about a Facebook post by personal Chief Chris Byers on June 7. The talks were intended to help Densmore decide on a course of action after the chief expressed negative sentiments about the Black Lives Matter movement and criticized church leaders.

The meetings led to assertions of wrongdoing by Byers that are not connected to the Facebook post, the city manager said. Densmore opened an internal investigation into allegations against the police chief on Monday.

“The chief has been placed on administrative leave pending the completion of this investigation,” Densmore said in a statement.

Mayor Mike Bodker described it differently during Monday’s City Council meeting, saying officials had been talking about the matter for a few months.

Bodker and Densmore have not offered details on what the allegations are against Byers. The chief did not return messages left by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Byers’ social media comment published was his first public controversy since he was promoted to the position on March 23. He started in law enforcement in 1996 and joined the Johns Creek police force in 2008.

Byers took a break from duty last week after several days of negative reaction to a nearly 1,000-word post on his personal Facebook page. In the post, the chief addressed the nationwide protests that started after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

Byers described Floyd’s death as an act of racism and said that while he values black lives he does not support Black Lives Matter. He addressed the post to church leaders and criticized them for supporting the movement, saying it’s hostile to law enforcement and “seems to glorify the killing of my brothers and sisters.”

Pastor Sabin Strickland of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Roswell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some misunderstand Black Lives Matters.

“The movement neither promotes the killing of police or any law enforcement,” the pastor said. “It brings emphasis and notice to the terrible injustices that black lives have experienced at the hands of law enforcement.”

In the days that followed the Facebook post, Bodker and Densmore released statements saying Byers’ post was concerning and public objections were taken seriously.

Johns Creek Communications Director Bob Mullen said via email that Byers will continue to receive his salary while on leave and can do so for 30 days — or longer, if approved. He will not be at City Hall or involved in any police department work, Mullen said.

Johns Creek has heard calls for the firing of Byers’ as well as public support. On Monday, City Council members heard nearly an hour of public comments.

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