Attorneys for Tamiko Mitchell, a Black woman hurt in an Aug. 23 police use of force incident, disagreed Friday with city independent police auditor Edward Collazo’s conclusion that Topeka police officer Kevin Schulz violated none of his department’s policies when he used force on Mitchell.
Mitchell had to be hospitalized for severe injuries suffered when she was taken to the ground after being stopped for a traffic violation, said PJay Carter, president of Black Lives Matter Topeka.
Mitchell’s attorneys, LaRonna Lassiter-Saunders and Joshua Luttrell, said in a news release Friday that they had seen police body camera video showing what happened.
“Not only were the officer’s actions excessive, they were unnecessary,” they said.
Mitchell said the physical and emotional pain she had experienced, and continued to experience because of Schulz’s actions, had only worsened after she heard Collazo’s findings.
“I feel like he ignored me, disregarded my experience and took advantage of my situation,” Mitchell said. “There is nothing independent about an investigation that has never protected the people. I am a human being and have been treated like I am meaningless by the police, by the independent auditor and by the city of Topeka as they refuse to act.”
Collazo reviewed officer statements, witness statements and seven police body camera videos before sharing his findings in a 17-page report, said Molly Hadfield, the city’s media relations coordinator.
While city manager Brent Trout has promised to publicly release body camera video of the incident once legal requirements were met, that won’t happen yet “pending criminal proceedings,” Hadfield said.
The current employment contract between the city and its rank-and-file officers with the rank of sergeant and below — who are represented in contract talks by the Fraternal Order of Police — bans the city, when an employee is under criminal or administrative investigation, from releasing any information that may reveal that employee’s identity, except to comply with a court order.
That contract was approved in September 2018 by Topeka’s mayor and city council.
Lassiter-Saunders and Luttrell, who is running as a Democrat for Shawnee County district attorney against incumbent Republican Mike Kagay, questioned Friday how independent Collazo’s report could be, considering its final version was made public only three hours after Mitchell finished providing Collazo statement.
They also noted that the Topeka City Council was told July 7 that Collazo in all 104 cases he had examined had concluded Topeka police policies and procedures were properly followed.
Lassiter-Saunders and Luttrell said: “This is a call to action for Topeka’s residents, officials and police department. We must move forward with a sense of urgency and unity to help right the wrong that will only cause a greater divide in our city. The community must come together to insist that the city of Topeka is safe for all.”