NAACP asks Police Oversight Panel to reconsider complaint against fallen officer

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Emma Athena

On Aug. 12, the NAACP of Boulder County will ask the City of Boulder’s newly formed Police Oversight Panel to reconsider a 2014 complaint against Officer Eric Talley, who died in the March 22 shooting at King Soopers. 

The request comes on the heels of a bill — introduced by U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse — to rename the historic downtown Boulder post office after Talley. 

In May, the NAACP approached Neguse with a recommendation to rename the post office in a way that recognizes all 10 victims of the shooting. While the allegations against Talley were originally found unsustained due to a lack of evidence by both the Boulder Police Department’s Professional Standards Unit and the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office, the NAACP has expressed concern that initial and subsequent reviews placed more weight on the officer’s telling of the events than the complainant’s. The alleged interaction occurred while Officer Talley was off-duty, so there is no body camera footage, nor were there any eyewitnesses. 

In June, the NAACP requested the City’s new Independent Police Monitor (IMP) review the 2014 investigation, a request that “was based on the overwhelming dissatisfaction of three NAACP Boulder County Branch Executive Committee Members who attended a presentation summarizing the investigation,” according to a letter from the NAACP to city staff. Completed in July, the IMP review found Talley could have been exonerated on one allegation, while the other allegation remains not sustained due to lack of evidence.

“To be clear, we don’t take away from [Talley’s] actions on that day (March 22) being heroic, and that he lost his life in the line of duty,” says Darren O’Connor, who serves as the Chair of NAACP Boulder County’s Criminal Justice Committee. “We advocate for the civil rights of people in Boulder County and certainly for persons of color and Black folks … to ensure that they’re treated equally.”

The Independent Police Monitor and Police Oversight Panel were created last year as a part of the City’s new response to law enforcement accountability. O’Connor sees this case as the first test of Boulder’s new system for handling citizen complaints against police officers.

In a statement in response to the NAACP’s concerns, Chief of Police Maris Herold, who was not in command in 2014 during the original investigation but who has since collaborated with the DA’s office in reviewing the complaint, said: “We take any allegations of inappropriate police behavior seriously. This case was reviewed thoroughly and found to be without merit. To bring this up now, years later and after Officer Talley’s death, is unfortunate and unnecessarily painful for Officer Talley’s family. Officer Talley was an exemplary public servant. He gave his life in the service of community members as well as his fellow officers. We are proud of his overwhelmingly positive professional record and heroic sacrifice.”

As Rep. Neguse’s bill remains in the U.S. Congress legislative queue, Annett James, president of NAACP Boulder County, says, “We all share in the grief of that horrible tragedy … but there are so many ways to do collective healing, and I think this just brings on more pain.”

Police Oversight Panel meetings are open to the public. The Aug. 12 meeting will take place virtually at 6 p.m., and will hear the NAACP’s concerns. You can learn more about how to attend the meeting at bouldercolorado.gov/events/police-oversight-panel