Neal Rott, 62, of Southfield died on Aug. 12, 2014.
Neal Rott (Photo courtesy of Leslie Rott Welsbacher)

In the flood of 2014, my dad went missing. My mom attempted to report him missing and no police departments would take a report. My parents lived in Southfield, and the Southfield Police Department was particularly cruel and insensitive, especially my interaction several months later with then-Deputy Chief Robert Shelide.

I wrote a letter to the Southfield Police Department outlining what had occurred with my dad and where I felt they had failed in serving and protecting. I received a phone call from Shelide. Amongst other things, he told me that the steps I was requesting wouldn’t have been taken “for a family member of the mayor.” He also told me that my dad could have been “at McDonald’s or in a hotel” and “that he didn’t warrant departmental resources.”

As you can imagine, this was shocking and devastating to me. My dad, in fact, was not at “McDonald’s” or “in a hotel.” He was found dead in his car the day after he went missing, not by the police, but by a person that lived on the block where my dad’s car was parked.

It came to my attention via friends that Shelide had made some abhorrent posts on social media. These posts invoked violence against people of color. At best, they are unequivocally racist in nature. At worst, they are criminal and should not be acceptable coming from any human being, let alone a law enforcement officer.

Shelby Township Police Chief Robert Shelide
Chief Robert Shelide Courtesy of Shelby Township Police Department

My concern is that if your chief of police could speak to a grieving daughter that way, what else is he capable of? And how many police departments in this state will pass him around, hoping he will magically change? If change is going to come, it has to start with the people who have power. And you do. So, the question is, how will you use your power?

Would you be OK if the next George Floyd occurred in your city? Forget about Neal Rott, of blessed memory. Think of all those who don’t have the privilege I have to even be able to write this letter.

Black lives have always mattered but, apparently, they matter more to some than to others, and others should not include law enforcement officers.

Editor’s Note: On, June 16, Shelby Township Trustees suspended Chief Robert Shelide for 30 days and ordered him to undergo cultural awareness and de-escalation training.


  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. I wrote in to Shelby Twp. regarding Mr. Shelide & also attended the four hour meeting where they voted merely to suspend him for 30 days. It was deeply disappointing. Not disappointing was Twp. Manager Stahakis’ strong statement that Mr. Shelide should be fired, and the dozens and dozens of people who spoke in favor of his firing as well. The ratio was something like triple the number of people wanting him fired to the people wanting him to remain. But, bigotry and cruelty is not done in our country yet, as you well know, and he stayed.

    I just wanted to say that I grieve your loss with you, and that countless others perceived what you perceived and lobbied to have him removed. I have a news alert set up to follow the matter should other opportunities arise for me speak out in favor of justice being served in regard to this man, which is how I found your column. I stand with you and believe you and see you and hope you have found some balm for the trauma in the following years. Nothing undoes a cavalier cruelty like that, and I can only hope that my and others’ efforts contribute to a feeling that there is a network of care in this world that opposes such cruelties and people who act towards bringing such cruelties to an end.


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