Georgia police chief under fire for personal Facebook post

A metro Atlanta police chief is under fire for a post he made on his personal Facebook page.

Johns Creek Police Chief Chris Byers spoke exclusively with FOX 5's Natalie Fultz Monday.

In the post, that has since been taken down, Byers called out religious leaders, their Black Lives Matter movement message and how many law enforcement officers are interpreting it in today's climate.

"I was hearing from officers that they felt abandoned and left out by their churches and pastors," Chief Chris Byers said.

Byers has been a pastor and in ministry for 25 years and has also spent 23 years in law enforcement.

"My goal has always been to bridge the gap between the two," Byers said.

In the 1500-word post, Byers said when asked if black lives matter, "My definitive answer, Yes! I believe the lives of every black man, woman and child matter just as much as the lives of every white man, woman, and child and police officer."

Byers said there is no question that black lives matter.

"There is a misconception by law enforcement that the Black Lives Matter movement calls for violence on police officers," Byers said. "I was just writing to my fellow pastors to share how their message is being interpreted by officers."

During the interview, Byers apologized and said he regrets the post.

"I never meant to offend anyone," Byers said. "My heart grieves that I've done that. I hope what comes from this is more conversation. I hope everyone who has a concern comes forward. We have to do better."

A peaceful protest is scheduled for 1 p.m. Tuesday outside the Johns Creek Police Department.

The city of Johns Creek issues a statement on Monday evening in response to the post. It reads:

“The City of Johns Creek and the Johns Creek Police Department do not condone or accept any form of racism, hate, brutality, or repression. The City stands against all forms of racism and will continue to work hard to protect the rights of all our citizens regardless of race, color, or creed. The city supports people's right for peaceful protest, demonstration, and the sharing of ideas, because it is through these rights and the sharing of ideas that we can enact proactive and positive change.

“'I am aware of the statement issued on the personal Facebook page of Chief Byers and I am also cognizant of where we are as a nation and as a Johns Creek community. With everything that is taking place around the U.S and the world, it’s important that we listen, understand, and make thoughtful decisions which will bring about improvements to everyone’s health, safety and quality of life,’ said Ed Densmore City Manager. ‘We will conduct a careful review of the content and comments from the posting and explore potential next steps or actions, as appropriate. Equitable treatment and respect for each and every member of our community, including those of the Black Lives Matter movement, is part of our city’s culture.’

“The City of Johns Creek recognizes the importance of seeking to understand all sides of any issue and listen to the voices of our community. For this reason, the city is working on future opportunities for potential Town Hall and/or community discussions to provide a way for residents, community leaders, faith leaders, and organizations to take part in a constructive dialogue on the issues at hand. These discussions will take place as soon as social distancing guidelines for COVID-19 deem it appropriate and safe. The city understands these discussions can and have been taking place virtually during this time but considers in-person meetings to be more impactful for discussions such as these.

“'Statements made in private or on a public platform have consequences far beyond the words themselves. When someone holds a public office or public position, those words can have a far-reaching impact,’ said Mayor Mike Bodker. ‘I have known Chris Byers for more than a decade, not just as an officer and now Police Chief, but also a person of deep faith who cares strongly about all people as well as his fellow police officers. I know his words were not meant to be divisive, but rather to foster a dialogue among these different groups, including Black Lives Matter, to bring the about tangible and meaningful change many of us would like to see.’

“The Johns Creek Police Department and police departments everywhere play a key and vital role in their communities. The majority of women and men within these departments across the world put their lives on the line each day to selflessly support, serve, and protect all the people, in the areas which they live and work.”