Greensboro Council votes against releasing Cole file amidst protests
by Sammy Hanf
Greensboro City Council voted 7-2 last week against releasing the investigative file in a misconduct case involving a former member of the police department.
Councilmembers Sharon Hightower and Jamal Fox voted in favor of release.
“I think in order to create and build upon public trust the release of the investigative file, that does not bind us to any litigation, is the correct and proper thing to do. Certainly we have done some unprecedented things as I said earlier but I think we can go a little bit further,” Council member Hightower said.
Protesters with GSO Operation Transparency gathered outside council chambers to reiterate their ultimatum that if the documents are not released by Jan. 11 they will conduct a people’s document search to seize and release the information.
Bay Love, with GSO Operation Transparency, said there were still a number of questions about the internal investigation, especially considering that the incident was not immediately flagged, given that the same officer was recently the subject of a mistreatment case that ended with the city paying out $50,000.
The officer, Travis Cole, resigned in August amid an investigation which found he had used inappropriate force and violated department rules regarding search and seizure.
The investigation centered around an incident where Cole arrested Dejuan Yourse on his mother’s front porch while searching for a burglary suspect. Body cam footage shows Cole punching Yourse in the face during the arrest.
“The hesitation to release the documents pertaining to that incident can only lead people to suspect that there is something in those documents that is worse than the video, which most people other than those in the police association, looked at and thought were very damaging,” Gary Kenton, a member of GSO Operation Transparency, said during the meeting.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said the city has been notified of two potential lawsuits regarding the case and believes care should be taken in releasing any information. Vaughan also said the city had already taken several unprecedented steps to promote transparency in this case.
“I think in this particular case the process worked,” Mayor Vaughan said. “I believe the process worked and I will stand by that and I will stand by that in November.”
Love said in a statement following the vote that GSO Operation Transparency’s ultimatum still stands and that if all documents and internal communication relevant to the investigation are not released by Jan. 11 a people’s document search will be conducted to release the information.
“If council members think the process worked, they should show us – show the public by releasing the documents we’re requesting,” said group member Citlaly Mora. “If there was no cover-up, there’s no reason to hold them back. State law clearly gives them clearance to release these documents in order to restore public trust.”
Added Juan Miranda, also with GSO Operation Transparency: “All of us who saw that video were shocked. We just want to know, where was the shock in the official investigative process? At two different points in the weeks after the incident GPD higher-ups viewed the video. Where are their notes and emails documenting their shock and dismay? How do we know we can trust the process the next time something like this happens?”