Colorado Officer Resigns After Confronting Man Who Was Picking Up Trash

A Boulder, Colorado police officer, John Smyly, resigns after a video of the officer confronting a black student, Zayd Atkinson, picking up garbage on Atkinson’s property, emerges.  

 

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Image Credit: Denver Post

1. The Video 

Video emerged of John Smyly questioned and followed Naropa University student Zayd Atkinson near his home in Boulder. In the video it is shown that Atkinson is not brandishing any sort of weapon, just a bucket. The video starts with another person who lives at the residence filming the altercation between Smyly and Atkinson. The roommate yells at the officer, “Go home, theres a camera on you officer, take your hand off your gun...” Atkinson follows, “You’re on my property with a gun in your hand threatening to shoot me because I’m picking up trash.” The roommate says, “He’s picking up trash and you have your hand on your gun?” while the officer stands facing Atkinson with his hand on his gun. Atkinson says to the officer. “You’re not going to get away with murder, not today...I don’t have a weapon! This is a bucket, man!” The video ends as more words are exchanged with Smyly and Atkinson still facing each other. Officer Smyly eventually drew his gun and called for backup. 

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Image Credit: Denver Post

 

2. The Officer Resigns 

  Boulder Police Department's investigation found Officer Smyly had violated the department's rules on police authority, public trust and conduct. The officer "did not have authority to detain Mr. Atkinson", the department wrote in their report. During the incident the man gave officers his university ID and said repeatedly that he lived and worked at the shared occupancy building. "The subject officer did not have probable cause to charge Mr. Atkinson with any crime." Officer Smyly thankfully resigned, but under a settlement with the department, Smyly will stay on the city payroll until February 2020.  

 

 

3. What’s Left 

The student's lawyer, Siddhartha Rathod, told local newspaper the Denver Post that he was dissappointed Smyly had not been fired and would still be paid. "The city of Boulder is paying this officer nearly $80,000 [£71,500] for violating the constitutional rights of Zayd," he said. "If you or I did what Officer Smyly did to Zayd Atkinson, not only would we be immediately fired, we would be criminally prosecuted." Atkinson told local broadcaster CBS4 Denverhe was glad Officer Smyly was "being held accountable for something but it seems like it's just bare minimum things". 

 

2019 has been a great year for uncovering systematic racism and prejudice in our society. While these events are horrible and need to be stopped, it's a blessing in disguise that we have the technology to be able to unveil these situations. It's no longer the officer's word versus the civillian. Now that we have the power to uncover these problems, we can work towards a better solution.