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City Concludes Investigation of March 1, 2019 Police Incident

City Concludes Investigation of March 1, 2019 Police Incident 

The City of Boulder concluded the investigation into a March 1, 2019 incident involving an encounter between Zayd Atkinson and Boulder Police officers.  In the interest of transparency, the city announced it would release the body camera videos, the police reports and dispatch tapes related to the incident. That information is available at https://bouldercolorado.gov/march1-police-incident.

The investigation found that one officer, John Smyly, violated two police department policies. It found no evidence to support a claim of racial profiling. While the finding likely would have resulted in suspension or possibly termination, Officer Smyly resigned prior to the conclusion of the disciplinary process. All of the other officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing. Police Chief Greg Testa’s executive summary of the investigation findings is available at https://bouldercolorado.gov/march1-police-incident.

As part of Smyly’s resignation agreement with the city, negotiated by City Attorney Tom Carr, he resigned from the Boulder Police Department effective May 15, 2019 and will exit all employment with the City of Boulder on February 9, 2020 after exhausting his accrued floating holiday leave, sick and permitted administrative leave.  

On March 1, Officer Smyly approached Zayd Atkinson at his residence to investigate a possible trespass. Mr. Atkinson was picking up trash on his property and had not committed a crime. The encounter led to allegations of racial profiling and police misconduct. While no one was arrested, the police department launched an internal affairs investigation, and the city hired an outside investigator to review the incident. 

“Concluding the investigation allows the city to release all of the information relating to the incident, allowing community members to form their own opinions based on all of the available information,” said Carr. “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. While we have no proof that racial bias was a motivating factor, the internal affairs investigation resulted in sustained violations of police policies. 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.” 

Carr explained that the negotiated resignation immediately removes Officer Smyly from law enforcement and prevents his reinstatement to the Boulder Police Department. He added that in addition to the executive summary, tapes and reports, the city will also release the report of an independent review conducted by former U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, Bob Troyer, when it is completed. This is expected to be sometime next week.    

Additional information about the March 1 incident is available on the police department newsroom. The body camera footage, police reports, dispatch tape and independent report are available at https://bouldercolorado.gov/march1-police-incident. Based upon this investigation and concerns it raised, the Boulder Police Department will be initiating additional officer training concerning effective de-escalation of incidents and the Boulder City Council has established a task force to study police oversight. 

Officer Smyly had been with the police department for over 14 years as an officer with no prior history of disciplinary action. 

Posted: May 16, 2019

Media Contacts:
Patrick von Keyserling, Communication Director, 303-441-4959
https://bouldercolorado.gov