1016 GMT July 23, 2019
The video, obtained by WSB Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta, shows Lt. Greg Abbott of the Cobb County Police Department standing at the side of a car during a traffic stop last year. He told the woman, a passenger, that she could use her cellphone, nytimes.com reported.
“It’s in your lap right there,” he said. She replied that she did not want to move her hands, saying she had seen “way too many videos” about how the police behaved at traffic stops.
“But you’re not black,” Lieutenant Abbott replied. “Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right?”
WSB-TV published an excerpt from the interaction on Thursday after it obtained the video through an open-records request.
At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Chief Mike Register of the Cobb County Police Department said the comments were “inexcusable and inappropriate.”
“I’ve known Lieutenant Abbott for a number of years, and I’ve always perceived him to be an honorable man. But he made a mistake,” Chief Register said, adding that the department had begun the process of firing him.
Ben Williams, the president of the Cobb County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, praised the decision at the news conference.
“There will be other instances of police misconduct,” he said. “But we have hope here in Cobb that we have a chief and leadership that is serious about bringing this department to be one of the better ones in the nation.”
Chief Register was appointed to lead the department in June.
The police in Cobb County, which is northwest of Atlanta and is Georgia’s third most populated county with about 741,000 people, have come under scrutiny for race relations in the past. A report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police gave the department a high community approval rating, but also mentioned a perception of discriminatory and biased policing, WSB reported.
The traffic stop took place on July 10, 2016, at about 3 a.m. on Interstate 75 near Marietta, the county seat. The male driver was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, his lawyer, Surinder Chadha Jimenez, said in a telephone interview on Thursday. The woman was a passenger in the car, he said.
Chadha Jimenez said he had watched the video to prepare for his client’s case. He said that it appeared the officer “didn’t like the way” the woman was talking to him during the arrest of the man, and that “they kept going back and forth.”
“From my perspective of the video, she was being truthful about her fear and the cop took it as a joke or an insult,” he said. He added that he did not think the officer had “meant malice” and that he had “made a bad joke.”
“The Cobb County police are addressing it appropriately,” Chadha Jimenez said.
Lieutenant Abbott’s lawyer, Lance LoRusso, said in a statement that the 28-year veteran of the force was cooperating with the internal investigation, Channel 2 reported. He could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
“He was attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger,” LoRusso said. “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.”
At the news conference on Thursday, Chief Register said Abbott’s comments might have been made “from a sarcastic standpoint,” but were inappropriate regardless of context.