Police consultant to look into Carbondale PD’s handling of Francisco arrest

The town of Carbondale plans to hire a third-party police administrative consultant to look into the local police department’s handling of the controversial Michael Francisco arrest Dec. 24.

Carbondale trustees, during their regular meeting Tuesday night, agreed to retain Powers Police Consulting and Investigations of Grand Junction to perform an independent review of the incident that occurred at the Carbondale City Market grocery store.

The board authorized a $2,500 retainer fee, and the contract itself will be on an hourly basis, Town Manager Jay Harrington said.

Natasha Powers is the principal of Powers Police Consulting. According to a town news release issued Wednesday, she has an extensive background and expertise in policing policies, including the use of force.

“This independent investigation will commence immediately, and the town looks forward to the results of this review,” the release states.

Around 5:38 p.m. on Christmas Eve last year, police officers were called to City Market at the request of store management to have Francisco, 55, removed from the store.

During the incident, officers wrestled Francisco, who is Black, to the floor in the self check-out area and arrested him on charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstruction after he declined to show his ID when asked by police to do so.

Store management had asked to have Francisco removed from the store for “trespassing,” according to incident reports, after an attendant at the adjacent fueling station alleged that a short time earlier he had pointed at her in what she interpreted as a threat.

Francisco and his lawyer, Mike Edminister, maintained as the case made its way through municipal court that the brief encounter through the checkout window at the fuel island before Francisco entered the main store was meant as a friendly gesture and that the resulting police involvement was a big misunderstanding that could have been avoided.

The misdemeanor charges were ultimately dismissed last week following a facilitated discussion between Francisco and Carbondale Police Chief Kirk Wilson, who happened to be in the store at the time and was the one who called officers to the scene that night. Wilson also returned to the scene when the confrontation became heated.

Francisco is well-known in some circles around Carbondale as a 10-year resident and the host of a popular reggae music show on community radio station KDNK.

The police handling of the situation was publicly criticized, with supporters showing up at Francisco’s court hearings, many carrying signs asking the town to apologize and drop the case.

In addition to the administrative review, the town is planning a more extensive assessment of the town’s policing practices in general. It’s part of a broader restorative justice process that grew out of the Francisco case.

Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson had called for an external assessment of the police handling of the incident early in the process and offered a few follow-up comments during Tuesday’s town board meeting.

“I was very happy that there was agreement around the resolution of that case, … and I’m really hopeful and optimistic that a restorative justice process can allow us all to better understand and take ownership of the events,” he said.

Richardson said he and the town trustees stopped short of issuing a formal apology until the court proceedings and the resulting review process play out.

Meanwhile, he encouraged residents to get involved in an upcoming series of “citizens academies,” where the public can have a two-way dialogue with police and other officials regarding community policing practices.

“I am proud at how the town and the staff have handled themselves through this,” Richardson said.

Following the case’s dismissal last week, Edminister had indicated that the settlement did not preclude possible civil action by Francisco against the town or other parties. He declined immediate comment on the town’s decision to pursue an independent review of the police actions in the case.