The Boulder, Colorado, police officer who initiated contact with a Black man as he was picking up trash around his front yard, resulting in several officers responding and also handling their weapons in a threatening manner, has resigned.
Instead of being fired as he should have been.
According to KDVR, the officer, John Smyly was found to have violated two department policies: police authority and public trust and conduct, but said that there was no evidence to support the claim that he racially profiled Zayd Atkinson, who is a student at Naropa University.
As the news station notes, Smyly would have likely been suspended or fired over the violation of department policies, but was able to resign before the disciplinary process concluded.
The other officers who were involved in the incident were cleared of any wrongdoing in the escalating confrontation.
Smyly’s resignation took effect on Wednesday, as part of the settlement with the city. As part of his cushy deal he will be paid for accrued floating holiday leave, sick leave, and be permitted administrative leave until Feb. 9.
“The exchange between Officer Smyly and Mr. Atkinson does not represent the professionalism of the Boulder Police Department nor the community Boulder desires to be,” city attorney Tom Carr said.
“While we have no proof that racial bias was a motivating factor, the internal affairs investigation resulted in sustained violations of police policies,” Car added. “However, a disciplinary appeal process required by the police collective bargaining agreement likely would have overturned a termination of the officer, and he would have returned to duty after extensive additional delay. The settlement allowed the city to provide the community information more quickly, and it transitioned Officer Smyly out of a law enforcement career.”
Atkinson’s attorney, Siddharta Rathod, criticized the department’s move in continuing to pay Smyly and allowing him to resign.
“Boulder is essentially saying we’re going to pay this officer and let him resign for threatening Zayd’s life, for racially profiling Zayd,” Rathod said, according to the AP. “If you or I were to do this, we would be criminally charged. We would immediately lose our jobs.”
Police body camera footage of the tense encounter was released on Thursday and showed Smyly approaching Atkinson asking if he lived or worked in the building where the student was using a metal clamp to pick up trash and put it in a bucket.
Atkinson said he lived there. Smyly asked for identification with the address on it and Atkinson readily provided his school ID, which did not have the address and then offered to let himself into the building.
Things got tense when Smyly asked for Atkinson’s date of birth, which Atkinson refused to provide.
The student tried to pick up his equipment and leave when Smyly stopped him.
Smyly accused Atkinson of obstructing an officer, “a jailable offense.” Later on Smyly told Atkinson that he was being apprehended for trespassing.
The situation continued to escalate as Smyly drew his stun gun, following Atkinson to the back of the building telling him to sit down and put down his “weapon” (aka the clamp).
“Your hand is on your weapon and you’re gonna shoot me,” Atkinson shouted. “That’s what you’re gonna do, officer? You’re gonna shoot a resident on his property for picking up trash?”
By the time the men had reached the back of the building, Smyly had his gun drawn.
“That’s a gun! I’m picking up trash! I’m picking up trash, and you’re holding a gun!” Atkinson can be heard protesting.
Eventually, more officers joined the confrontation. one of them was holding a rifle – which an investigative summary said fires bean bags, according to the AP. Another drew his handgun when he arrived, but reholstered the weapon shortly after.
Smyly kept his weapon out until Atkinson put down the clamp.
Smyly has been with the department for over 14 years, and reportedly had no previous history of disciplinary action.