In a campaign to get two long-serving Greenwood police officers fired, activist Bruce Wilson of Black Lives Matter — Greenwood spoke to city council Monday night, decrying the police chief’s decision to defend one of his officers.
Wilson’s efforts began following the trial of the six men who were charged, then acquitted, in connection with the 2018 Greenwood Mall shooting.
Lt. Mike Dixon, lead investigator on the case, testified during the trial that no one had made any disparaging comments about any of the men charged in the case. When attorney and state Sen. Karl Allen played a clip of Capt. Mitchell McAllister, then supervisor over the investigations division, calling one of the defendants an “absolute f---tard,” Dixon said on the stand that he did remember it, and said the statement was unprofessional.
Wilson, along with BLM-Greenwood Vice President Travis Greene, publicly called for Police Chief Gerald Brooks to fire McAllister over his comment, which was made in private to Dixon, who had his body camera still recording and captured the audio accidentally.
Brooks declined to fire McAllister, and defended his officer’s conduct, saying he has served the residents of Greenwood well, and that there was no punishment that would teach McAllister better than what he already experienced having the recording played in court.
On Monday, Wilson addressed council without Greene by his side, as Greene had been served with a warrant by the police department earlier in the day charging him in connection with a fraud investigation, according to police department officials.
Wilson said he was disappointed that the chief continued to defend McAllister’s actions. He said he met with Brooks last week, and that Brooks assured him McAllister’s record spoke to his dependability as an officer, but Wilson took issue with a disciplinary report from August 2018 found in McAllister’s personnel file.
The report details the events that led to McAllister being moved from investigations to the uniform patrol division — a move that came without a pay cut or any leave time, but that McAllister described as “a demotion in every other way” in a response letter.
The five-page reprimand, written by Brooks, details a 2018 joint investigation with Greenwood police and the Drug Enforcement Unit — a joint city-county task force. DEU detectives working the investigation had asked for advice from 8th Circuit Solicitor’s Office attorneys on what charge to pursue on a suspect, and followed the advice given.
McAllister, after learning about the case, spoke with DEU detectives and expressed displeasure with the charge, saying “that is a (expletive) charge.” The reprimand goes on to say McAllister spoke with others about the case, and discussed calling a judge to have him release a suspect, all without consulting with the solicitor’s office, the DEU’s commander or with Brooks himself.
“In essence, you decided to go behind the backs of the officers who made the charge(s), circumvent their chain of command, and undermine the work that they had done,” Brooks wrote.
When Brooks heard about this in 2018, he called McAllister along with the two DEU detectives he spoke with and representatives from the solicitor’s office into a meeting. In the meeting, Brooks said all of the attendees were able to speak and clear the air, and he confirmed with the attorneys that the charge was appropriate.
“It came to my attention and I felt like it was something I had to address rather quickly,” Brooks said Monday, recalling the meeting. “I thought that it was fixed, problem solved. ... I didn’t think it was a major occurrence. Unfortunately, Capt. McAllister didn’t leave it alone.”
In the hallway outside Brooks’ office, McAllister spoke with one of the detectives and said “Which one of you snitched to the chief,” according to the reprimand. He asked another investigator later who had “snitched,” and texted the DEU commander asking “Who’s the snitch that told Chief I disagreed with the arrest for obstruction? And caused an hour long meeting?”
“Without question, ‘snitch’ is a derogatory term, particularly in the way you intended it,” Brooks wrote in the reprimand. “It was disrespectful, offensive, and unprofessional for you to use that term to question the two detectives.”
McAllister would later write in a response letter requesting that his punishment be lessened that he intended the comments to be a joke, and thought he had the rapport to make jokes like that. He also offered his take on several details in the complaint, although in the end Brooks declined to lessen the punishment of moving McAllister out of investigations.
“I needed to get his attention because apparently the meeting didn’t do the job,” Brooks said Monday, “and Number Two, I needed to correct his performance in that style.”
The reprimand transferred McAllister to uniform patrol, placed him on one-year probation and made clear that he was being given one more chance, “not another chance, but one more chance.”
“As I spoke with others involved in this most recent matter, you were characterized as arrogant, easily offended, negative and sarcastic,” Brooks wrote. “I was told that you are ‘poisoning our well’ and that you are ‘toxic’ to a harmonious work environment. You have established a reputation for criticizing nearly everyone except those who are in your presence at the moment.”
Since then, Brooks said he believes the reprimand worked as intended.
“I think he learned the lesson well, and we have not had any similar occurrence from him since then,” Brooks said on Monday.
McAllister has been with the department since 2002. He’s a good officer, Brooks said, and he wouldn’t have risen to the rank of captain otherwise.
Wilson, however, said this reprimand, issued Aug. 23, 2018 — after the in-private disparaging remark in the Greenwood Mall case — serves as an example of why McAllister should not still be employed. He also took issue with Dixon, who had testified to not hearing any disparaging remarks during the Greenwood Mall shooting investigation, which turned out to be untrue.
“This council should take immediate action on these two high-ranking officers,” Wilson said. “Your duty is not to protect officers who have violated their oath.”
Brooks said Monday morning that Dixon’s testimony was a case of him not recalling a single remark whispered in a private conversation more than a year ago.
“I’m not worried about Dixon’s honesty,” Brooks said. “I think he is an honest, professional police officer.”
Brooks said his department takes complaints seriously but noted that he has never received any complaints from residents regarding McAllister’s service. As to concerns Wilson raised earlier about whether there was a culture of permitting bad behavior in the police department, Brooks said he takes the department’s policies and procedures very seriously, and that officers are held accountable not only by supervisors, but by the public.
“In this day and time, it’s much easier to guard against than it used to be because in this day and time the cameras are running,” he said.
Whether through body cameras, dashcams or residents recording on their cellphones, he said if an officer behaves badly, it’s likely to be recorded and reported. In these instances, however, he said nothing rose to the level of requiring McAllister or Dixon’s terminations.
Dixon declined to comment following Monday’s meeting, and McAllister reiterated a comment he made before where he said he’s not proud of his word choice and that he made a mistake, but that he will do his best to continue to serve Greenwood to the best of his abilities.
Council did not comment on Wilson’s statements during Monday’s meeting.