GREENSBORO — The City Council won’t release more details about a controversial police misconduct case, including reports that led police officials to decide that former Officer Travis Cole used too much force and abused his power.
On Tuesday, the council decided — in private — not to let Councilwoman Sharon Hightower see information about the June 17 incident between Cole and Dejuan Yourse.
Hightower has been asking to see the reports since Sept. 20, when council members first learned about the incident and voted to let the public see footage from police cameras.
Council members discussed Hightower’s request during a closed session. City Attorney Tom Carruthers said they reached a “consensus” — as opposed to taking a vote — since the council isn’t allowed to vote in its private sessions.
Hightower mentioned the private discussion when the public meeting resumed, an action some council members saw as a breach of protocol, and community activists in the audience cheered.
Hightower said the council tried to “shut me down and not get me the information I asked for.”
She said people in the black community are fearful and mistrustful of the police, and that she’s trying to make public information that could ease their minds.
“This is a real concern. This is not a show, as it has been called,” Hightower said. “This is reality.”
After Hightower’s disclosure, members of Black Lives Matter loudly demanded to hear an accounting of how each council member “voted.”
Mayor Nancy Vaughan told them: She, Hightower and council members Jamal Fox and Yvonne Johnson wanted to let Hightower see the reports.
Council members Marikay Abuzuaiter, Mike Barber, Nancy Hoffmann, Justin Outling and Tony Wilkins didn’t, the mayor said.
Community activists have spent the last month pressing for more details about the police department’s investigation into Cole’s actions on June 17. Cole and then-Officer Charlotte Jackson were investigating a call about a possible robbery at Yourse’s mother’s house.
Footage from their cameras showed Cole punching Yourse in the face.
The police department’s internal investigation determined that Cole used too much force and violated the police department’s rules about search and seizure.
That, combined with the footage, prompted the council to air the footage publicly, request additional investigations and call for changes in the department’s policies on how it investigates misuse of police power.
The council also has asked questions about why police officials waited until August — nearly two months after the original incident — to place Cole on paid leave and start an official internal investigation.
Cole resigned from the force before the police department finished its investigation. The Guilford County District Attorney’s office declined to press charges in August, and refused a request from council to re-examine the issue in September.
Community activists, including the Rev. Nelson Johnson, have told council members that the delay has raised questions about a possible cover-up by the police department.
Greensboro has been lucky to avoid the violence other cities have experienced due to tensions between residents and the police, Johnson said.
“You have to be held accountable for anything that grows out of this,” he said.