A Cobb County, Georgia police officer is being investigated after dash cam footage showing him making questionable statements during a suspected DUI traffic stop was released. During the stop the officer, dealing with a nervous but not uncooperative passenger, had this interaction:
Officer: Use your phone. It’s in your lap right there.
Woman: OK. I just don’t want to put my hands down. I’m really sorry, I’m just—
Officer: –You’re just really [unintelligible]
Woman: –no, no, no I’ve just seen way too many videos of cops—
Officer: –But you’re not black. Remember, we only shoot black people. Yeah. We only shoot black people, right? In all the videos you’ve seen, have you seen the black people get killed?
Officer: You have.
WSB-TV Atlanta reports that it was only after their channel’s investigation asked for the video that the Cobb County police department opened an internal investigation. According to the report, Lt. Greg Abbott is the officer in the video and he has been put on administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation. The woman’s attorney believes that Lt. Abbott was being sarcastic in his comments, but also believes that this doesn’t change the fact that it is a highly inappropriate thing to say—even if the woman was being less than cooperative. Abbott’s attorney Lance LoRusso told WSB-TV:
Lt. Greg Abbott is a highly respected 28-year veteran of the Cobb County Police Department. He is cooperating with the department’s internal investigation and will continue to do so. His comments must be observed in their totality to understand their context. He was attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger. In context, his comments were clearly aimed at attempting to gain compliance by using the passenger’s own statements and reasoning to avoid making an arrest.
Cobb County police Chief Mike Register says they are seriously investigating the events in the video, and as of this diary, he was unaware of any previous “racial bias complaints” against officer Abbott. The fact of the matter is that police officers, for good and for bad, need to check themselves into the context of the world we now live in. Trying to de-escalate a situation using racially charged “humor” is not a particularly sensitive thing to do, and it is also an incredibly unintelligent thing to do. Cobb County, like many parts of America, has racial tensions that have been exacerbated by our current political climate.
Just last year a Cobb County police officer, Maurice Lawson, resigned after facing suspensions after a couple of racially charged incidents exposed Lawson as a cop unfit for his job.
Maurice Lawson was facing a two-week unpaid suspension and required additional training after a lengthy investigation into his traffic stop of Fulton County middle school teacher Brian Baker in November. The video also showed Lawson asking Baker if he wanted to get out of his car to talk, and admitted to fellow officers after Baker left that he “loses his cool every time.”