sanctity of Mr. Easter’s life, we may not be looking at such a tragic outcome,” Jennings said two weeks ago.
The officers and sergeant resigned ahead of their hearings before Charlotte’s Civil Service Board, according to the CMPD official. Jennings does not have unilateral authority to fire officers, but can submit recommendations for termination, demotion and promotion to the board.
According to the police source, all five CMPD officers resigned over the last week.
Their personnel files will reflect that they were recommended to be terminated and that they resigned before a hearing was held, the official said.
The officers did not take Easter to the hospital or give him medical aid until he had what appeared to be a seizure and lost consciousness inside a police interview room, according to police documents and Alex Heroy, an attorney who is representing Easter’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit.
A review of internal police documents, released Sept. 18 by CMPD, showed the officers saw residue on Easter’s tongue and discussed how much of the substance he’d swallowed as he was being arrested during a drug investigation just outside uptown Charlotte on Jan. 23. At a police substation, Easter was strip-searched, shackled to the floor and left unattended for at least 20 minutes as he began having life-threatening health issues.
Jennings, in announcing he had recommended the officers be fired, said the four officers and sergeant had “intimate knowledge” that Easter had swallowed cocaine during the traffic stop that led to his arrest.
The Observer previously reported the officers and sergeant did not follow a long-standing CMPD policy that states anyone suspected to have ingested drugs must be evaluated by Medic before being taken to jail.
Video footage of Easter’s arrest and medical emergency in the police interview room is expected to be released Thursday.
District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said last week the officers will not be criminally charged for involuntary manslaughter.
Two weeks ago, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles expressed condolences to the Easter family and praised Jennings’ accountability.
When asked whether the officers might resign prior to the hearings and find other jobs, Lyles said they must be held responsible.
“I did not support the idea that you should be able to avoid the action or the consequences of an investigation and take retirement and move on. It’s just not that simple anymore,” she said.
According to CMPD, Officers Sheffield and Vincent both had prior sustained complaints. Sheffield received a written reprimand in 2014, a one-day suspension without pay in May 2015 and a one-week suspension without pay in November 2015. Vincent received a written reprimand in 2014. No details of the circumstance surrounding the complaints were provided.
In the last three years, CMPD has received an average of 138 complaints annually against officers, of which 70% are sustained, meaning an investigation found there was sufficient evidence to prove the allegation, according to CMPD’s Internal Affairs bureau.
Officers often resign ahead of termination hearings so they can still receive their pension or find another job ahead of being fired, said Chris Herrmann, assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a former New York Police Department crime analyst.
“There’s a difference between having charges put against you and then being convicted guilty of a crime,” he said.
This pattern has encouraged some activists to argue that there should be a federal database of police disciplinary records, he said.
It is unclear whether the CMPD officers who have resigned are eligible for a pension and whether they will be able to receive it.