Friday, March 12, 2021

Chief Spivey Should Go

It seemed like a routine traffic stop, so Neco Bonham asked the officer why he wanted him out of the pickup truck.

Instead of an answer, the 18-year-old received an electric jolt from a Taser, punches to the head and handcuffs during the December 2018 incident, court records show.

It took the Richardson police officer about 15 seconds to escalate the encounter into a violent use of force, said Bonham’s lawyer.

The charges were dismissed just days after the arrest. The police officer received a written reprimand, but according to the lawsuit, he didn't admit fault. He is still on patrol. The lawyers for the City of Richardson invoked the "qualified immunity defense." This puts the City firmly on the side of this police abuse. The department told The Dallas Morning News it would not have a comment.

A year after this incident in Richardson, George Floyd was murdered while in police custody in Minneapolis, triggering nationwide protests, including Richardson. The Richardson City Council invited Chief Spivey to brief the City Council on the RPD's use of force policy.

Here's my contemporaneous reaction to that briefing last summer:

In two-and-a-half hours with Chief Spivey, no one uttered the words "Black Lives Matter." Maybe they all felt that was all taken care of two weeks earlier, when the City Council approved a statement condemning racism. Still, no one identified any specific areas for improvement in Richardson. No one called for change. No one put any money behind the sentiment.
Source: The Wheel.

Note that while Chief Spivey was reassuring the City Council that all was well in our town, the incident that would spawn this federal lawsuit had already happened. It was simmering in the background, while the victim sought to obtain the body cam video that we can all see today and judge for ourselves whether young black men in Richardson are safe from police brutality. Chief Spivey made no mention of this incident. If the council members and members of the public in the audience were given the impression that such an incident could never occur in our town, well, Chief Spivey made no attempt to disabuse his listeners of that mistaken impression.

City Manager Dan Johnson said that the police department is "highly attuned to today’s important racial equity and social justice issues." Obviously, this story shows that not every officer in the department is so highly attuned. The City defending the officer in question tarnishes the reputation of every good officer on the force.

Maybe the buck goes one level higher than Chief Spivey. Maybe it's City Manager Dan Johnson who also ought to be defending his job. The buck has to stop somewhere.

Chief Spivey announced his retirement a week ago. Whether or not that announcement was related to inside knowledge that this The Dallas Morning News story was about to break, Chief Spivey should move up the date of retirement.