GREENSBORO, NC (WFMY) — The Greensboro Police Officers Association released a five-page statement Friday afternoon, accusing the city council of breaking the law by releasing body camera footage involving a former officer. The association also accused the council of twisting the context of the video.
On Sept. 26, the Greensboro City Council released two body camera videos, one from the angle of former officer Travis Cole and one from the angle of officer Charlotte Jackson. The video shows the interaction and eventual arrest of Dejuan Yourse*.
VIOLATING THE LAW?
In the 15-minute video, Jackson and Cole responded to a possible breaking and entering at 2 Mistywood Court. Jackson arrived first and found Yourse sitting on the front porch of his mother’s house and told her he was locked out. Yourse said he used a shovel to attempt to pry open the garage door.
Later, Cole arrived at the scene. While Jackson is in her car, trying to confirm Yourse’s identity, Yourse makes a phone call and tells the person on the other end, “the police are harassing me.” The incident escalated as Cole grabbed the phone out of Yourse’s hands and eventually punches Yourse several times before arresting him. Yourse is heard yelling several times that he was not resisting and at one point turned to Jackson and told her “you better not lie for him,” referring to Cole.
Cole resigned on Aug. 16 before a disciplinary hearing could be conducted. Prior to his resignation, the District Attorney’s office said Cole did not violate any criminal laws.
The police department continued to investigate Jackson’s role in the Yourse incident, when she resigned from the department, two days after the video was released.
William Hill, attorney for the Police Association said the city violated NC Personnel Privacy Act, committing a misdemeanor by releasing Jackson’s portion of the video.
“It’s a misdemeanor to release anything from a personnel file without the consent of a person. She did not consent. Without a court order or without certain finding being made. None of that happened, “said Hill. “With this being blasted all over the news, it violated her due process rights.”
The association said it supports the due process of Cole but did not support the “violation of Jackson’s legal right.”
Hill said it would have been appropriate to only release Cole’s portion of the video.
When asked if Jackson or the police association would file a lawsuit against the city, Hill said he had no comment.
*Calls to Yourse’s attorney, city attorney Tom Carruthers, Greensboro Chief of Police Wayne Scott and Mayor Nancy Vaughan have not been returned.
OFFICER’S SIDE OF THE VIDEO
The association claims the context of the video was twisted by the council. Hill said he had not seen the video released by the council but has seen the original video as a whole prior to release.
In a statement released to the media, the association said Yourse provides conflicting information to Cole, including the correct pronunciation of his name, whether or not he has ID on him and if he is a legal resident of his mother’s house. The statement (attached below) reads Cole tried to question Yourse about any outstanding warrants he might have access to which Yourse responded, “not that I know of.”
“Mr. Yourse also stated he is not afraid to go back to prison, which further heightens Officer Cole’s suspicions,” the statements reads.
The statement also reads Yourse continued to act suspiciously and attempted to leave the porch. Yourse said he wanted the next door neighbor to verify his identity. Cole prevented him from leaving so he would not have an opportunity to flee, according to the release.
Cole said he perceived the phone call to a friend, in which Yourse claimed the police were harassing him, as a safety threat.
During the struggle, both officers reported they felt Yourse grab for items on their duty belts and reported sustaining injuries. Jackson reported Yourse put pressure on her wrist during the struggle in an attempt to break her wrist.
After Yourse was in custody, Cole and Jackson discovered two active warrants for his arrest. It was also discovered Yourse was charged with breaking and entering into his mother’s house, 2 Mistywood Court, twice in the past.
BIAS IN THE COUNCIL?
Although the council voted 7-2 to release the video, the association accused councilmember Sharon Hightower in particular of a “politically motivated witch hunt,” in releasing the video.
“It just appears that Mrs. Hightower was taking the lead in portraying this a certain way and saying she wanted everyone held accountable at the council meeting,” said Hill.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan expressed her disdain for the video after it was shown, calling it “brutal” and apologizing to Yourse.
When asked why only Hightower was singled out, Hill responded, “We’re disappointed in the body, because it can only act as a body but we are certain some council members didn’t want to this to go this way.”
In a phone conversation with WFMY News 2, Hightower said, “I represent a segment of the people who feel they are targeted by police. I don’t have to be on a witch hunt to get to the truth. I’m going for the truth and if that’s seen as a witch hunt, then they have a bad perception.”
Following the release of the video, a 30-day hold was placed on four officers involved in the Yourse case. Two officers are Criminal Intelligence Supervisors who investigated allegations against Cole. Their finding was presented to the DA who declined to prosecute Cole for criminal activity. The other two were officers in Internal Affairs.
The association called the hold another example of political strong holding.
“These officers have decades of experience and didn’t do anything wrong,” said Hill.
Hightower said they were still too many questions revolving around the case. In addition, Hightower said Cole was promoted on Aug. 1, in the middle of the Yourse investigation.
“The promotion went back to May but in the midst of this controversy, he shouldn’t have been promoted,” said Hightower.
Hightower added that she is okay with being singled out because she still supports the police.
Hightower added, “I voted for them to get body-worn cameras and I voted for them to put a million dollars into their building. Am I still supposed to give them a thumbs up and say ‘ok’ and not say I have questions? I have concerns. Am I not supposed express my community’s concerns because I might hurt somebody’s feelings?
As for the association’s claims that the council broke the law in releasing Jackson’s video, Hightower responded “Seven of us voted for it.”
City council members also voted unanimously (8-0) to ask the state to revoke Cole’s law enforcement certificate.