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Joint Statement – Zayd Atkinson and the City of Boulder

Joint Statement – Zayd Atkinson and the City of Boulder

On March 1, 2019, Boulder Police Officer John Smyly stopped and questioned Zayd Atkinson while he was working in front of the building in which he lived. Mr. Atkinson should not have been stopped. Additionally, the proper protocol would have been for the officer to walk away after Mr. Atkinson produced his student identification card and explained what he was doing. Following the incident, the City of Boulder promptly took steps to address the community’s concerns, including publicly apologizing to Mr. Atkinson, and holding a community listening session. As a result of the listening session, the City established a civilian police oversight task force that made recommendations which resulted in the adoption of an ordinance establishing a new civilian police oversight model. Additionally, the City arranged for the departure of the officer.

Based on the history of race relations and law enforcement in the United States, and the particular circumstances of the encounter, Mr. Atkinson’s anger was justified. While the stop itself was wrong, some things were done right during the encounter itself. Backup officers who were called to the scene and led by a sergeant quickly determined that Mr. Atkinson lived in the building and was engaged in his work study job. Once the additional officers who arrived assessed the situation, they used appropriate de-escalation techniques and left. The training of the additional officers who arrived on scene contributed to the resolution of this incident without further escalation or injury.

Mr. Atkinson and the City are settling any potential claims arising from this interaction so that the parties may focus on the continued healing of both the community and Mr. Atkinson. Prolonged litigation will adversely impact those efforts. The City is committed to learning from this incident and moving forward to become a safer, more welcoming, and respectful place for all.


Attorneys for Zayd Atkinson                           Attorney for the City of Boulder
Rathod | Mohamedbhai LLC                        Tom Carr
2701 Lawrence Street, Suite 100                   Boulder City Attorney
Denver, Colorado 80205                                1777 Broadway
Work: 303.578.4400                                       Boulder, Colorado
Fax: 303.578.4401                                         (303) 441-3020                                      [email protected]

Published: March 12, 2020

Media Contact:

Patrick von Keyserling, City of Boulder Communication Director, 303-441-4959