Oakland, CA — BART police Sgt. Tom Smith came home from work one day and told his wife who is also BART police officer, that if anything happened to him, she should “sue-the s**t” out of the agency, her attorneys said Monday.
Days later, on Jan. 21, 2014, Sgt. Tom Smith would be killed during the search of a small apartment, by one of his own – BART officer Michael Maes. Maes, a law enforcement veteran with 26 years of experience as an officer, said he mistook Smith for an armed suspect during the search.
Prior to being killed by one of his own, Smith began to voice his discontent with the department after they rejected his requests for more training or the use of its SWAT teams during high-risk incidents.
Specifically, Smith told his wife — fellow BART Officer Kellie Smith — that she should file a lawsuit naming Deputy Police Chief Ben Fairow, whom he said had routinely denied his requests for more training and for tactical teams, according to SFGate.
The lawsuit was filed on Friday in the U.S. District Court of San Francisco. It says Fairow, “denied training and denigrated officers when training and/or involvement of tactical teams were discussed,” saying that it was all “bull—” and that officers were “pussies” because they had “training like this in the police academy.”
“As a result of these repeated denials, my husband said to me, ‘If anything happens to me, I want you to sue the s— out of BART and Fairow.’ ” Kellie Smith wrote in her letter. “My husband’s words will stay with me forever. I cannot let this situation and his concern for his fellow officers go unanswered.”
Kellie Smith is a 20-year veteran of the force. The fact that she is crossing the blue line after so many years speaks volumes as to the inconsistencies involved in this case.
The events surrounding Smith’s death are questionable, to say the least.
The day Smith was killed, he and Maes were supposedly looking for John Henry Lee, a 20-year-old robbery suspect. However, Lee was arrested five days earlier and already in police custody when the pair entered his apartment to apprehend him.
According to the police department, the officers had failed to study the circular floor plan of Lee’s apartment before the search. They suddenly encountered each other in a back room, leading to Maes killing Smith.
Crossing the blue line often means career suicide and can also be dangerous. In January, the Free Thought Project reported on the whistleblowers from the Chicago police department whose very lives were threatened for trying to expose the corruption in their department.
As Shannon Spalding, one of the whistleblowers from the CPD points out, this blue code of silence and punishment is already an unfortunate reality for most.
“It’s no secret that if you go against the code of silence, and you report corruption, it will ruin your career,” Spalding said.