BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – John Smyly, a Boulder police officer, has resigned after his department says he violated two rules when he questioned and followed a Naropa University student who was outside his home. The situation — which was captured on video — drew criticism for what student Zayd Atkinson said was an instance of racial profiling.

Bodycam video of the March 1 confrontation (credit: Boulder Police)

Smyly resigned on Wednesday before the start of a planned administrative hearing into the matter. The Boulder Police Department says the rules that were violated were conduct and violation of police authority and public trust.

Zayd Atkinson speaks at a rally in Boulder following the incident. (credit: CBS)

On March 1 Smyly stopped Atkinson while he was picking up trash next to the building he lives in using a pole and asked him numerous questions. Body camera video of the incident that was released on Thursday shows Atkinson getting upset after the officer asked him what unit he lives in and asking him to provide identification that showed his address. Smyly said he was concerned Atkinson might have been trespassing.

Atkinson showed a Naropa ID but at one point refused to comply with the officer’s orders anymore and began picking up trash once more. The officer requested backup and followed him, ordering him to sit down.

“I was not going to just fall in line again and just be a dog,” Atkinson told CBS4 on Thursday.

Smyly also threatened to use his stun gun on Atkinson because he “had a weapon,” referring to Atkinson’s pole.

“You’re an idiot. Why would you think that you could tase me? I’m freaking picking up trash on my property which is where I live. I’m not doing anything illegal, and you’re not going to f—— tase me,” Atkinson said in the video.

Looking back on the incident, Atkinson says that when he saw the officer get out the stun gun, he thought ‘Oh my gosh, he’s going to shoot me.”

After other officers arrived Atkinson berated them for many minutes for their response to a non-situation.

The department issued a statement saying the “officer’s decision to attempt to detain Mr. Atkinson was not supported by reasonable suspicion that Mr. Atkinson was committing, had committed, or was about to commit a crime, therefore he did not have authority to detain Mr. Atkinson.” They said they didn’t find any evidence of racial profiling.

When asked about the resignation of Smyly, Atkinson said he’s glad “he’s being held accountable for something but it seems like it’s just bare minimum things.”

Smyly resigned under an agreement that allows him to collect $69,000 in salary.

Comments (5)
  1. Rob Andover says:

    I live in Phoenix, Arizona, where we are dealing with our own police brutality theater regarding the harassment of African Americans by the Phoenix PD. I am white, I side with the victims and against both the Boulder and Phoenix PD, and I am ashamed to be a citizen of this country. I am wondering if there is any way I, and anyone else who might see this issue the way I do, could hope to achieve political asylum in one of the many better countries in which there are actual checks and balances against the power of the police. There truly is no hope nor future in the United States as both the Boulder and Phoenix PD’s have proven beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt…..there is no reason to stay nor to have any loyalty to America if we are supposed to be down with accepting vulnerability to our lives and our physical safety to these sociopathic and psychopathic officers 24/7/365. Is there any way I and others who deserve basic human rights can achieve political asylum in one of the many better countries and just start over somewhere else? The police have ruined America for me and I no longer see the point of living here when so much better is available in the world.

    1. Jukka says:

      I don’t know what world you think you’re living in. There is not even close to a better country than USA when it comes to civil rights, even it is far from perfect, especially now that you have let them scare and bully you to hand almost every basic right you should have but this time the blame is almost as much with the people than it is with your governments. You’re not the only country that has dropped to their knees but I expected more from the american spirit of freedom.

      I am still so jealous about your Bill of Rights that has secured rights that exist nowhere else in the world, so if you’re still trying to find a ”better country” to live in that respects your rights better that US I think you’ll have some busy years to come until you have to realize that there is no better county in that regard.

      In this case I’m (of course) with mr Atkinsson who did nothing wrong, or maybe giving his ID and name and his address and he also didn’t need to answer any questions or even talk to the cop. Ignoring him would have been the best choice. Rule #1: Never talk to a cop without a lawyer, it can never help you even if the cop wanted to but it has million unexpected ways it can hurt you. They allways provoke you to try to get you to talk and talk a little too much. Never fo that. You have allways the right to remain silent, it doesn’t start only after possible arrest like they would like you to believe. Never talk. Take the names and film as much as possible and later call a lawyer.

  2. Ty Harris says:

    I’ll have to side with Atkinson on this one. The man is to be commended for picking up trash. The officer needs to find some crime to fight not be harrassing people for no reason.

  3. Robert Chase says:

    Atkinson will just go get hired by another jurisdiction willing to ignore his unfitness.

    1. Jukka says:

      You mean Smyly. He will propably try that but we just need to hope that he won’t get hire even it is easily possible. He should have been sued by Atkinsson and maybe he was but they settled it out of court and for compensation Atkinsson was required to sign NDA so we won’t here about it or at least we won’t here any details about it.

      But at least tyranny didn’t win totally and no one was shot with any type of weapon.

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