Carbondale police chief issues statement on disputed Christmas Eve arrest, department philosophy
Carbondale Police Chief Kirk Wilson said Wednesday that his department continues to embrace the philosophy of community policing, and that a resisting arrest case against Michael Francisco, which has drawn considerable attention, is still under active investigation.
Wilson also said in the formal statement issued via email Wednesday morning that he welcomes a town review of the department’s policies and procedures, as called for by Mayor Dan Richardson.
“At this time the incident that took place on December 24, 2020 remains under investigation,” Wilson said. “We are also reviewing our policy and procedures to ensure they are up-to-date and are the best practices, and our officers are continually training with particular regard to racial bias and verbal de-escalation.”
At issue is the arrest of Francisco, 54 — a well-known Black man from Belize who has a reggae show on public radio station KDNK — late in the day on Dec. 24, 2020 at the Carbondale City Market grocery store.
According to police accounts, Francisco was accused of pointing and making an “angry” face toward the attendant in the fuel center kiosk upon leaving the fueling area and heading over to the main store.
Francisco’s attorney, Michael Edminister, has since maintained that the exchange was taken out of context, and that there was nothing confrontational about Francisco’s gesture toward the attendant.
In any case, the attendant called over to alert her front-end store manager at the store about a possible threat.
Wilson happened to be in the store at the time, but was not on duty. At the manager’s request, he called to have officers respond, and Francisco was contacted by police while at the self check-out.
According to accounts of the incident, after hesitating to show his identification and questioning why he was being contacted, officers moved in to restrain Francisco and removed him from the store in handcuffs.
He was later released on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstruction of government (police) operations.
The case is now being heard in Carbondale Municipal Court before town Judge John Collins. A Monday hearing drew dozens of protesters who were there to support Francisco, with some carrying signs saying, “Drop the Charges.”
At the hearing, town prosecuting attorney Angela Roff said she was awaiting further evidence from City Market, including statements from those involved, internal reports of the incident and store policy information. City Market expects to release that information by 4 p.m. March 15, Roff said.
Edminister also said he has had difficulty viewing video evidence that has been entered in the case. His request to have the charges dismissed based on the evidence thus far did not get a response from Roff. The case has been continued until April 12.
In the meantime, Chief Wilson offered in his statement that Carbondale is “a unique town and requires a unique form of policing. Our officers understand and embrace the philosophy,” he said.
It was those community ideals that he said drew him to apply for the open police chief position last year when former longtime Police Chief Gene Schilling announced his retirement. Wilson got the job and trained under Schilling as a lieutenant from June through September before taking over as chief.
“This community is blessed with one of the most culturally diverse departments up and down the valley,” Wilson said. “This is a department that is reflective of our community, and we will do everything we can to continue. My goal is to retain and recruit officers that share the same values as our community.”
Wilson further said he looks forward to the upcoming review of the department and policies.
“We are firmly committed to continuing to ensure that this department is fair and impartial in all our endeavors and that every interaction with our community is lawful and unbiased. As a department, we will hold ourselves accountable for all our actions,” he said.
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