Dan Lippitt posted a series of screenshots highlighting inflammatory, hateful tweets and posts from various businesspeople, politicians and others.
Dan Lippitt wants to make it crystal clear — he didn’t do anything special.
“I sat on my couch and posted something on Facebook; that’s about as lazy as you can be,” says the former photojournalist, who once worked at the JN and is now a commercial photographer.
But that “something” he posted on Facebook led to the removal of Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide, who is now on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
Like so many Americans, Lippitt has been watching recent news events — from the police killing of George Floyd to violent standoffs between police and protesters nationwide —and feeling angry, helpless and frustrated. Scrolling through his Facebook feed only made matters worse. And then he saw a friend doing something that inspired him — outing people making racist and offensive comments online. He decided to try it, too.
“I’ll be outing all the racists that message me or that I see,” Lippitt posted on Facebook. “If you are afraid to out someone, screenshot and send it to me. I’ll do it.”
Lippitt, who used to attend services at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield, posted a series of screenshots highlighting inflammatory, hateful tweets and posts from various businesspeople, politicians and others starting June 2. Within two days, he was posting screenshots of tweets glorifying police brutality from the Twitter account of @sheepdawg711, which Chief Shelide now admits he wrote. Lippitt says a source provided the screenshots.
“So this is a ‘fun’ one. Ladies and Gentlemen your Shelby Twp. Chief of Police,” Lippitt wrote. “Please share this far and wide. Let’s get this a**hole fired please and, yes, I have private confirmation that it is irrefutably him.”
The Twitter account has since been taken down, but in screenshots, the tweets refer to protesters as “wild savages” and read, “body bags for these vicious subhumans.” One says, “I would hit them with tear gas and water cannons. Rubber bullets.” Another reads, “Unleash the real cops … I promise it will be over in 24 hours.”
After township officials placed him on paid administrative leave, the 34-year police veteran’s tone dramatically changed. Shelide issued an apology, which reads, in part: “While an apology is insufficient and an insult to the gravity of my comments, I humbly and respectfully ask for the courtesy of forgiveness to those I have offended, to my department and more importantly to those I am sworn to serve. My record speaks to the commitment and professionalism that I have exhibited for more than 30 years without incident, both of which were compromised by my emotion.”
Lippitt was not impressed. “He posted reprehensible things and he’s policing people. You can’t have a police chief who thinks like this,” Lippitt says, adding he had no idea who Shelide was prior to all of this.
While friends and followers on Facebook are calling him a “warrior for justice,” thanking him and cheering him on, Lippitt says he wishes he had done something sooner.
“Why did I wait so long to speak my mind? What was I afraid of?” he wrote. “I’m disappointed in myself. What if I had spoken up sooner? What if we all had? Please stop complimenting me for doing what I should have done in the first place.”
Following all the excitement, Facebook locked Lippitt’s account for at least three days, saying his posts were “against community guidelines” without providing details. He and others protested the temporary Facebook ban and his page was reinstated. In the end, Lippitt says he wants people to know that actions matter, and one person can make a difference.
“Everybody should be speaking up. Imagine if everybody just spoke up,” he says. “People are entitled to their opinions; I’m not trying to keep anybody’s free speech down. But racism is bad. Just be nice — it’s not that hard. And for God’s sakes, go vote.”