Officer stops after a confrontation with a black man to clean up

DENVER – A white Colorado police officer who is confronted with a black man to clean up around his dormitory resigned this week under an agreement that let him collect $69,000 in salary despite violations of department policy.

Body camera footage released Thursday provided a full video account of the tense encounter, which gained national attention on the basis of video shot by someone in the building. Those images only showed Zayd Atkinson is holding a bucket and a tool for picking up trash as police officers surrounded him outside the dormitory for the students of Naropa University, a liberal arts school connected with Buddhism.

An attorney for Atkinson called the agreement with the city of Boulder “ridiculous.”

“Boulder is, in essence, say: we are going to pay of this officer and let him resign in the name of Zayd’s life, for racist profiling Zayd,” attorney Siddhartha Rathod said. “If you or I were to do this, we would be criminally charged. We would immediately lose our jobs.”

In a statement, City Attorney Tom Carr said the firing of the officer, John Smyly, would have led to a long-term appeal and potential, allowed him to keep his job.

Under the agreement, Smyly resigning his police role on 9 May, but will remain an employee until February without performing any work. He will receive “proportionate wages and benefits” in that period, and “one lump sum payment for any accrued and unused vacation time when his employment officially ends Feb. 9.

A phone number for Smyly may not be located Thursday. He did not mention the incident in his letter of resignation.

According to the new video footage, Smyly approached Atkinson on 1 March in front of the apartment-style building, where he, with the help of a metal tool with a claw at the base to convert trash into a bucket. Smyly said he found Atkinson on the back patio and wanted to see if he lived or worked.

After Atkinson said he did, Smyly asked for the identification with the address on it. Atkinson his school ID, which did not have an address, and then offered to let located in the building as evidence.

Smyly prompted for Atkinson’s date of birth. Atkinson refused then picked up the bucket and tools and walked away.

“Do that,” Smyly said on the tape. “Stop!”

He also told Atkinson that he was hampered by a police officer, “a jailable offense.” Smyly later told Atkinson that he was detained for trespassing.

Smyly drew his Taser and followed Atkinson to the rear of the building, repeatedly told him to sit down on the ground and put the weapon down, pointing it to the recycle bin tool. Atkinson repeatedly stated that he had not done anything wrong.

“Your hand is on your weapon, and you’re gonna shoot me,” Atkinson called. “That is what you are going to do officer? You are going to shoot with a resident on his property for the clean up?”

An investigative summary said Smyly, drew his gun and two men reached the back of the building. On the video, Atkinson responds by shouting: “That is a gun! I’m on clean up! I am on clean up and you are with a gun!”

After about eight minutes, more Boulder police officers come and form a loose semi-circle around Atkinson.

An officer can be seen holding a gun; the investigative summary says it fires bean bags. According to the summary, the agent drew his gun when he first arrived, but re-holstered it in less than a minute, while Smyly had his gun out to Atkinson put the trash-grabbing tool down.

The report, released with the video footage said Smyly had no jurisdiction to hold Atkinson or probable cause to charge him with any crime and should have left as soon as Atkinson provided his name, address and his reason to be there.

Atkinson, 26, said that he believes that Smyly should be fired immediately. He said that he had trouble sleeping since and spends time outdoors or with friends to calm him down.

“My life is now a kind of restless, restless,” he said.

Carr, the city attorney, said the resignation agreement “with the city to provide the community more information quickly switched Officer Smyly out of a law enforcement career.” The city of the employment contract with the police requires a call for any disciplinary measures and could have been allowed Smyly to return to duty, he added.

City officials said that the investigation could not prove that Smyly acted as Atkinson’s race. Carr said the researchers found Smyly violated two department policies: the police and the public’s confidence and behavior.


Information from: Daily Camera,

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