Carl Takei
Tue May 21 21:50:04 +0000 2019

THREAD: In Boulder, Colorado, a police officer who detained and drew a gun on a Black man for no reason was permitted to resign (with full pay and benefits) after an Internal Affairs investigation concluded that his actions violated department policies. /1

The Black man was Zayd Atkinson, a student at Naropa University who was using a metal trash-picker to pick up litter around his dorm building.

Officer John Smyly approached Atkinson, believing that he was trespassing on the property. /2

Atkinson told Smyly that he lived in the building and, with visible irritation, agreed to provide his ID. However, Smyly was not satisfied with Atkinson's college ID and asked for more information from Atkinson to prove that he "belonged" there. /3

When Atkinson chose to end the encounter by saying "No" and walking away (which he had the right to do), Smyly followed him and repeatedly ordered Atkinson to sit down. This was an unlawful order, because Smyly had no basis for arresting Atkinson. /4

Smyly responded by continuing to follow Atkinson, and issuing more unlawful orders to stop and sit down as Atkinson insisted "I fucking live here!" and kept picking up trash.

Smyly called for backup, stating that he had an uncooperative subject armed with a metal object. /5

Smyly drew his Taser, and then his service pistol. Atkinson expressed disbelief that Smyly might choose to kill him, with his body camera running, on Atkinson's own property. /6

After backup officers arrived, a Sergeant had to convince Smyly to return Atkinson's ID and leave. Smyly at first refused to believe that his fellow officer had confirmed that Atkinson did, in fact, live in the building. /7

Based on his behavior, Smyly is the kind of person who should not have a badge and a gun.

But he was permitted to resign with full pay and benefits rather than be fired, because the appeal process negotiated by the police union could have let Smyly go right back on the job. /8

As my colleague @paigejfernandez recently wrote, police union contract negotiations have been used as vehicles for rolling back accountability, transparency, and civilian oversight across the country. /9

All too often, police contracts shield police officers from accountability and ensure disciplinary processes favor officers over community members. /10

That's why #CampaignZero (@samswey @mspackyetti @deray), for example, identifies changes to police union contracts as a key strategy for ending police violence. /11

Moreover, when officers are able to engage in misconduct without being fired or having a negative paper trail, it increases the chances that they'll be able to get hired by another nearby department. /12

The officer who shot #AntwonRose last year, for example, had worked for three different police departments in seven years, and was hired by the East Pittsburgh PD despite a prior employer finding issues with his honesty. /13

So, while John Smyly may not be patrolling the streets of Boulder any time soon, there's a good chance that he'll get a new job in a neighboring city where he will have the opportunity to abuse his authority on other people in the future. /14

Tue May 21 21:50:09 +0000 2019