Mimesis Law
26 April 2017

Greensboro, NC Tries To Pull Cop’s Certification Over DeJuan Yourse

September 30, 2016 (Fault Lines) – On June 17, 2016, Greensboro, North Carolina police officers C.N. Jackson and Travis Cole answered a call about a possible break-in and made contact with DeJuan Yourse. Yourse was on the front porch, playing on his cell phone when Officer Jackson approached him. Yourse was cooperative, answering all of Jackson’s questions, and when she went to her car to run her checks, Yourse continued to cooperate with Cole. Or he did until Cole struck Yourse without provocation.

You see, Yourse offered to get several of the neighbors to identify him as belonging at the house, was open about having been in prison before, tried to call his mother to verify that he was okay to be there, and was generally being cooperative. As it dragged on, and Cole got more and more irritated, Yourse called a friend and asked him to come over to ID him, because the police were harassing him (at 9:10).

At that point, Cole reached forward and tried to grab the phone out of Yourse’s hand. Cole claimed that this was for officer safety, but Yourse had been allowed to try and call his mother earlier. There was no way for Yourse to know what kind of call would be allowed and what type would be unacceptable to the officer.[1] So when Yourse verbally protested the grab at the phone, Cole punched the seated Yourse in the face. The body cam shows several unnecessary punches by Cole. In general, Cole’s behavior was neither reasonable nor necessary to maintain control. At no point was Yourse a threat to Cole.

The Greensboro City Council released the body camera footage to the public (we’ll come back to this issue) and voted 8‑0 to have Cole’s law enforcement certification indefinitely suspended so that he cannot find employment as a police officer elsewhere in the state. It requested that the District Attorney review this incident again, to “ensure the entire investigative file is duly considered.”

Cole resigned on August 19th, after having been placed on administrative leave[2] on August 10th. This was not the first time that Cole had problems with being overly aggressive. In 2014, Cole had arrested Devin and Rufus Scales for impeding traffic[3] for walking in the street. In March of 2015, the District Attorney dropped the charges.

The Police Department’s Internal Affairs investigation cleared Cole of any wrong-doing in the Scales case, but the brothers appealed the matter to the Greensboro Complaint Review Committee (CRC). The CRC found that Cole was “too aggressive,” “never should have arrested [the brothers],” and “did not use good judgment.” Cole was suspended for two days,[4] and the Scales brothers accepted the city’s apology and a $50,000 settlement. The New York Times ran a story on the incident, bringing national attention to Greensboro.

This time, with Yourse, Cole saw the handwriting on the wall and resigned. This is common, because it allows the now former officer to typically escape criminal charges because the investigation is normally dropped (as it was here by the DA) and the officer can obtain new employment as an officer elsewhere.

In North Carolina, the Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission controls the licensing or certification of officers, based on state law. And they are empowered to revoke or suspend an officer’s license for a number of reasons. A request by a city council is not one of them, but a criminal conviction would subject Cole to sanctions. There doesn’t appear to be any case law on point in North Carolina, so I don’t have a clue how this would play out if there were sanctions without a conviction.

The problem is that you’re not likely to get a conviction based on the videotape. Cole’s attorney will trot out the “officer safety” mantra, and a jury will probably buy it. I understand completely why the DA didn’t pursue it, it’s a loser of a case and DA’s do not like to lose. That’s not saying that Cole was right in what he did. He wasn’t. He just won’t get convicted of anything, and therefore won’t lose his law enforcement certification. So he may turn up at another police department.

The other issue is the body camera video. The video is considered part of the officer’s personnel file, and is not subject to release unless the city chooses to do so. Further, as of October 1, 2016, the North Carolina Police Secrecy Act[5] goes into effect, and a city will not be able to release a video absent a court order.

You know, without the video, it becomes the word of Yourse against two police officers. In any courtroom in the land, the word of a person who has been to prison compared to two officers? Guess who’s going to lose—and it’s not Cole and Jackson.

As a final note, Jackson was still on duty as a cop through all of this, despite allegations that she may have violated policy in the incident. She resigned while under investigation on September 28th. But in the future, without video going public, do you really think that this would happen?

[1] Generally, officers do not want people to call their friends to the scene, but officers normally inform the person of this rather than to go hands on.

[2] Usually called “suspended with pay.”

[3] Rufus was also charged with being intoxicated and resisting a public officer.

[4] Sources differ on the suspension, from two days with pay, to two days without pay, to one day.

[5] Okay, it’s not really titled that way, but that’s what the effect is. The actual law is here, and is a section titled “Law enforcement agency recordings.”

5 Comments on this post.

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  • bacchys
    30 September 2016 at 11:14 am - Reply

    I was watching a rerun of The Andy Griffith Show the other day, and Gomer said, “There are two sets of laws: one for the police and one for everyone else!”

  • Eric Rolston
    2 October 2016 at 2:23 am - Reply

    Now the local police association lawyers are claiming Yourse had multiple warrants out for his arrest and had previously been arrested for breaking into his mother’s house.

    • Greg Prickett
      2 October 2016 at 1:12 pm - Reply

      None of which justified the assault on Yourse.

      I wouldn’t have had a problem with further investigation and arrest, nor with the officer telling him to get off of the phone and not to call anyone else, nor with calling for additional officers to be prepared in case someone did show up.

      I have a problem with assaulting Yourse under the facts that were in place at the time. It was not justifiable.

  • Reginald Simmons
    8 October 2016 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Officers totally out of order, it has to stop.Fellow officers have to step up when they see this happening and not be cowards your duty is to serve and protect the public.In there eyes we are guilty of something point blank.

    • Greg Prickett
      8 October 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      Exactly what would the follow up officers see that would tell them it was inappropriate? I don’t have a problem with calling out officers for excessive force, but to blame officers who didn’t use that force, didn’t see that force used, and have no way of knowing about the excessive force is wrong.

      The follow up officers did nothing wrong, and have nothing to apologize for.