By Darius Spearman (africanelements)
Tacoma’s controversial decision: $500K payouts to officers cleared in Manny Ellis’ death ignite debate.
TACOMA, WA – The Tacoma Police Department’s recent announcement reveals a striking decision: three former officers, acquitted in the 2020 death of Manny Ellis, will each receive $500,000 to depart from the force. This conclusion to a contentious case has sparked widespread public discourse.
A Controversial Acquittal Leads to Significant Payouts
In March 2020, the encounter between Manny Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, and Tacoma police officers Matthew Collins, Christopher Burbank, and Timothy Rankine ended tragically. Charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, a jury cleared the officers in December 2023 (KNKX Public Radio). Recently, these officers agreed to leave the department, each receiving a $500,000 separation payment.
Internal Review and Policy Updates
Police Chief Avery Moore confirmed that an internal review found no violations of the then-effective use-of-force policy on the day Ellis died. However, this policy has since undergone significant revisions to better align with community and department interests (OPB).
Public and Legal Backlash
These payouts have triggered intense backlash. Criticisms focus on rewarding the officers for their actions in Ellis’s death, as expressed by Ellis’ family attorney, Matthew Ericksen: “The worst TPD officers are also the highest paid” (NewsOne). Additionally, a federal investigation continues, potentially leading to further legal consequences.
In a similar vein, community members have voiced their frustrations. During a vigil held in Tacoma, residents reflected on the broader implications of the case and its resolution. “It’s not just about Manny. It’s about what his death represents in the larger struggle for justice,” one participant remarked, highlighting the broader context of the incident (OPB).
A Community’s Reaction to a Divisive Decision
Tacoma’s decision to financially compensate the three officers has not just raised eyebrows but has also sparked a profound emotional response within the community. The payout is seen by many as a disheartening message about accountability in cases involving police actions.
Ellis’ death, already a focal point for local racial justice advocates, has further fueled the dialogue about police conduct. The Tacoma Action Collective, a prominent local activist group, expressed their dismay on social media, criticizing the city’s handling of the situation. “The system that we’re supposed to trust in Tacoma is so broken that you can beat, tase, hog-tie, and deprive a Black man of oxygen until he dies and only be reprimanded for not being more respectful about killing him,” the group stated in a post (KNKX Public Radio).
The decision also raises questions about the effectiveness of reforms and policies aimed at improving police accountability. As Tacoma faces these challenges, the need for open dialogue and shared respect to foster healing and understanding within the community is more crucial than ever.
About the author:
Darius Spearman is a professor of Black Studies at San Diego City College, where he has been pursuing his love of teaching since 2007. He is the author of several books, including Between The Color Lines: A History of African Americans on the California Frontier Through 1890. You can visit Darius online at africanelements.org