Boulder officer who confronted black Naropa student picking up trash resigns

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BOULDER, Colo. — One of the Boulder police officers who confronted a black man as he was picking up trash in his yard has been found to be in violation of department policies and has resigned.

The city of Boulder said Thursday that it investigated the March 1 incident involving the confrontation between Zayd Atkinson, a student at Naropa University, and officers.

The investigation found officer John Smyly violated two department policies and found no evidence to support a claim of racial profiling.

Officer John Smyly (Photo: Boulder Police Department)

The city released body camera videos, the police reports and dispatch tapes related to the incident.

Smyly, who had been with the department for more than 14 years with no previous history of disciplinary action, likely would have been suspended or possibly fired over the findings, but he resigned before the end of the disciplinary process.

All other officers involved were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Smyly’s resignation was effective Wednesday as part of a settlement with the city. He will be paid for accrued floating holiday leave, sick and 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.

“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.”

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