In the aftermath of Greensboro City Council’s release of police body camera footage from the Dejuan Yourse incident, the second officer involved in Yourse’s arrest resigns and the Greensboro Police Officers Association releases a scathing letter aimed at council.
The Greensboro Police Officers Association released a fiery 5-page letter signed by attorney William L. Hill last week blasting Greensboro City Council members’ actions around the Dejuan Yourse case, calling it “the political grandstanding of some of our council members” and concluding: “In their handling of this incident, some members of the city council violated more rules, regulations and state laws than any of the officers involved; who is going to hold them accountable?”
City Attorney Tom Carruthers said in an Oct. 1 email to council that “Attorney Hill’s disparaging comments are misplaced and have not contributed to the necessary dialogue” around the case.
The letter capped a week that began with an explosive special council meeting, where the public first saw police body camera footage from then-officers Charlotte N. Jackson and Travis B. Cole. Just two days after council released footage of Dejuan Yourse’s arrest, Jackson resigned, following Cole’s lead — he quit a month earlier.
Jackson, who was only known publicly as female Officer CN Jackson at the time, resigned on Sept. 28, according to police spokesperson Susan Danielsen. (Above: Jackson)
Internal police investigations into the handling of the incident found that then- officer Travis Cole violated four of the department’s directives in his June 17 interactions with black resident Dejuan Yourse, including excessive force. Cole resigned on Aug. 19 before the department announced its findings, and Chief Wayne Scott said at a Sept. 26 press conference that an investigation into Jackson’s use of force was still ongoing. He added that he hoped it would be completed in about two weeks.
Little is known about former officer Charlotte Jackson, though parts of her personnel file made available to Triad City Beat show that she was hired in 2010 and had most recently been promoted in 2014 to the rank of Police Officer II. There are no other promotions, demotions or suspensions listed in the information provided by the Greensboro Police Department.
In contrast, Cole is already well known in Greensboro for the Scales brothers’ case in 2014, which later led to a formal apology from the city and a $50,000 settlement. Cole received a one-day suspension without pay for the incident.
Cole is white, and based on the released police footage, Jackson appears to be white as well. Yourse and the Scales brothers are black.
Further complicating matters, the department promoted Cole on Aug. 1, 2016 along with “all of his other academy graduates” to Police Officer III, a bump that comes with a salary increase from $46,592 to $48,067, Danielsen said. The promotion and automatic raise came weeks after the June 17 Yourse incident and the subsequent internal investigation that began almost immediately.
After TCB uncovered Cole’s promotion, City Manager Jim Westmoreland announced on Sept. 28 that effective immediately, he was ordering a 30-day hold on “the promotion of any officers directly involved in the incident and events involving former police officer Travis Cole or in the investigative process.”
Shortly afterwards, the Greensboro Police Officers Association published a letter arguing that council didn’t protect Jackson’s “right to a fair disciplinary process, which is afforded to her by city policy, state and federal law” and that as a result of some council member’s actions at the meeting, “Officer Jackson was tried in the court of public opinion, without any regard to actual facts.
“After all of this, our city leaders still felt that Officer Jackson could still get a fair disciplinary hearing,” the letter continues. “Unfortunately, Officer Jackson disagreed. Believing that her fate had already been decided by city leaders, Officer Jackson resigned from the department that she loved and the city that she served with distinction. To the detriment of our community, she became collateral damage for others’ political gain.”
The letter also states that on Sept. 28, the department planned to promote 17 employees but said that four are being stalled by Westmoreland’s order.
“These are four officers who have had impeccable careers and earned their promotions,” the letter reads. “They now have to put their careers on hold to allow some of our city leaders to continue to pander to the special interests of some who want to take part in the national rhetoric of police corruption.”
(Click here to read the full letter from the Greensboro Police Officers Association, which also includes a detailed version of the Yourse incident, including the claim that “both officers reported that they felt Mr. Yourse grabbing for items on their duty belts” and the assertion that both officers sustained injuries.)
Some members of council criticized the decision to hold up the promotions, according to Facebook posts by Councilman Tony Wilkins. But many residents expressed outrage after learning of Cole’s promotion, saying it further deteriorated community trust in the department and only heightened the need for police accountability and reform.
In a letter delivered to council last week, former lawyer Lewis Pitts and the Rev. Nelson Johnson renewed the call for an investigation by an independent panel, citing Cole’s promotion as an example of just how awry the process had gone. Theirs were among the calmest voices in the room at council’s special meeting last week demanding greater transparency and accountability, as dozens of activists disrupted the meeting and expressed little to no faith in council or the department. Despite what some council members described as significant progress around police accountability recently, attendees weren’t buying it, and given the letter from the police officers association, many officers wouldn’t call current affairs “progress” either.
Pullout: Timeline of events
June 17: Incident with Dejuan Yourse occurs, investigation begins almost immediately
July 20: Yourse calls the department to complain about how he was treated, according to Chief Wayne Scott
Aug. 1: Officer Travis Cole is promoted and given a raise
Aug. 9-10: Chief Scott allegedly becomes aware of incident and video. Cole is placed on administrative leave with pay, and a second, criminal police investigation is opened
Aug. 19: Cole resigns before either investigation concludes
Sept. 20: Greensboro City Council votes to release footage from the Yourse incident
Sept: 26: Body camera footage is released at a special meeting, council votes to pursue greater consequences for Cole including possibly preventing him from serving as an officer again
Sept. 27: TCB uncovers Cole’s Aug. 1 promotion
Sept. 28: Officer Charlotte Jackson resigns. City manager puts promotions of those tied to the Yourse incident and investigations on hold for 30 days
Sept. 29: Lewis Pitts and Nelson Johnson deliver letter to council calling for an independent panel to investigate the department’s handling of the case
Sept. 30: Greensboro Police Officers Association releases scathing five-page letter
Oct. 1: New state law limiting release of police body camera footage takes effect
Oct. 10: Approximate date on which internal police investigation into Jackson’s behavior regarding Yourse incident is expected to be completed
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Former Officer Travis Cole should have been the only one fired for this incident, when the victim complained of being harassed by police officers, that’s when Cole grabbed for the victim’s phone, falsely claiming he was concerned for officer safety.
Anyone connected with this unnecessary escalation of police excess should be fired, unless they were opposing it (no one), including the command staff who promoted any of the involved officers.