Three Washington state police officers who were cleared of criminal charges in the 2020 death of Manuel Ellis, a Black man who was shocked, beaten, and restrained facedown on a sidewalk as he pleaded for breath, will each receive $500,000 to leave the Tacoma Police Department, the Associated Press reports. “This says to the public that these are excellent officers, and it’s a shame Tacoma is losing them,” said Anne Bremner, an attorney for one of the officers, Timothy Rankine. But Matthew Ericksen, an attorney for Ellis’ family, called it “perverse” and said the officers were “effectively being rewarded” for his death. He noted that the officers had already been paid about $1.5 million total while being on leave for nearly four years. “The worst TPD officers are also the highest paid TPD officers!” Ericksen wrote. “Everyone in the community should be upset by this.”
A jury acquitted Rankine, 34, and co-defendants Matthew Collins, 40, and Christopher Burbank, 38, in December following a trial that lasted more than two months. Rankine was charged with manslaughter, while Collins and Burbank were charged with manslaughter and second-degree murder. The city released copies of the “voluntary separation” agreements with the officers Tuesday as police Chief Avery Moore announced findings that none violated the use-of-force policy in effect on March 3, 2020. Collins was found to have violated a policy concerning courtesy. The use-of-force policy has since been updated. The old one “failed to serve the best interests of the police department or the community,” Moore said. The U.S. attorney’s office in Seattle said last week that it is reviewing the case; the Justice Department can bring prosecutions for federal civil rights violations, but the scope of the review was not disclosed. Ellis’ death became a touchstone for racial justice demonstrators in the Pacific Northwest. The trial was the first under a 5-year-old state law designed to make it easier to prosecute police accused of wrongfully using deadly force.