The Greensboro City Council made two major mistakes at its meeting on Tuesday, May 2, which are likely to haunt the city for years.
First, the City Council allowed Nelson Johnson and his minions to take over a meeting and run the City Council off the dais and into the back room like scared rabbits. Johnson now knows that he has the power to take over a meeting anytime he wants. It effectively takes the power to determine the course of meetings out of the hands of the mayor and hands it over to Johnson.
The second mistake is going to, in the long run, cost the taxpayers of Greensboro millions of dollars.
The City Council, by a 6-to-3 vote, agreed to pay Dejuan Yourse $95,000 for getting caught by the police after it appeared he was trying to break into his mother’s house.
Every person who gets arrested by the Greensboro police can now cry foul, and if they can find a flaw in the way the police handled the arrest the City Council is going to give them money.
It was an extremely shortsighted decision to settle the case rather than going to court. The argument was that it was cheaper to pay Yourse $95,000 than it was to spend an estimated $300,000 or $400,000 going to court, where the city might not win. But in the long run spending that $300,000 to $400,000 sends a message that someone had better have a really good case before taking on the City of Greensboro.
The settlement sends the message that if you file suit against the city, then the city will give you money. The city already has several other cases pending.
And although the vote was 6 to 3, only one of those three votes was against the settlement. The other two didn’t like some unusual terms in the settlement but didn’t disagree with paying Yourse. So essentially the vote was 8 to 1 to pay Yourse $95,000.
This decision makes it easy. The victim has to hire a lawyer to say they are going to sue for some outrageous amount and then settle for what they can get.
Officer Travis Cole in the Yourse incident may have overreacted. But if you go back and look at the video and consider some of the things that have been revealed after the incident, Cole’s instincts were on target.
First of all, we now know that Yourse was not going to continue to sit on his mother’s porch after the police checked him out. He was going to jail.
He was asked if he had any outstanding warrants or papers and he said “No” the first time he was asked, and “Not that I know of” the second time. He did have outstanding warrants, and as soon as Officer Charlotte Jackson ran his driver’s license through the system she would have found that there were warrants for his arrest and he would be arrested and taken downtown.
If you watch the police body-cam video, Yourse starts behaving differently once he hands his driver’s license to Jackson. When she asks if he has any identification he says no. Then, after he thinks about it, he says yes he does and hands over his license. After Jackson takes his license and goes back to her car, Yourse starts trying to get off the porch. Cole tells him to sit back down, and you can hear Cole say to Yourse to calm down, and that Yourse’s breathing is getting rapid and he appears agitated.
Then Yourse makes a phone call and tells someone to come help him because the police are harassing him. At that point Cole demands the phone. Cole had earlier allowed Yourse to call his mother and had not told him not to make any other phone calls. Yourse won’t give up his phone and Cole hits him, takes him down on the floor and Jackson comes to help handcuff him.
Yourse continues to struggle and refuses to walk to the police car. Yourse ends up face down on the grass in the front yard with Cole kneeling on top of him.
According to the video, Yourse continually lies to the police.
In the very beginning Yourse tells Jackson he picked up a shovel out of the yard and put it on the porch. In answer to a question from Cole he admits he put the blade of the shovel under the garage door to see if his dog was inside. This makes no sense; you can’t see a dog with a shovel. Also, what Cole doesn’t know is that there is no dog. Yourse doesn’t have a dog. But what you can do with a shovel is pop a garage door open.
Cole also doesn’t know if this really is Yourse’s mother’s house. Yourse says he lives there when he is first asked, but then on further questioning he admits that he does not live there but that he is there every day.
Also what Cole doesn’t know is that when Yourse’s mother’s house had been broken into earlier, she told police that she suspected her son had done it.
Furthermore, Yourse’s mother was not on her way home, or if she was she was coming from a long way away because she did not arrive at the house while the police were there investigating the arrest of her son.
Since that incident Yourse has been arrested at least twice.
The City Council determined that Cole had not followed police policy in arresting Yourse. But police officers who viewed the same video said they didn’t think that Cole was out of line. The attorney for the police union wrote a strongly worded press release defending the actions of the police officers.
The Guilford County district attorney’s office viewed the same video and determined that no charges would be brought against Cole or Jackson.
The disciplinary hearings for Cole and Jackson were never completed because both resigned.
It appears that what the City Council is going to spend more and more time doing is watching police body-cam videos, second guessing the actions of police officers caught making split-second decisions and paying out money to people who file complaints against the police.
Developing a budget and deciding how the $126 million in bond money will be spent will be left up to staff because the City Council won’t have time to micromanage the Police Department and do the City Council’s job.