A Georgia police officer stands to lose his job after he was caught on dashcam footage telling a woman in a traffic stop, “We only kill black people.”
A lawyer for Cobb County Police Lt. Greg Abbott said the comments from the traffic stop “must be observed in their entirety to understand their context.”
Abbott, a 27-year veteran of the force, was attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger, lawyer Lance J. LoRusso said in a statement.
But police Chief Mike Register said that no matter the context, the statements were “inexcusable and inappropriate” and did not reflect the culture he’s trying to build. The July 2016 video was first reported on Wednesday by CNN affiliate WSB-TV in response to an open records request. Register, who took over as chief of the suburban Atlanta force in June, said an internal review recommended terminating Abbott’s employment.
“I’ve known Lt. Abbott for a number of years, and I’ve always perceived him to be an honorable man. He made a mistake. I don’t know what’s in his heart, but I certainly know what came out of his mouth. And, it’s inexcusable and we have to take appropriate action.”
Cobb County Police did not respond to multiple requests for information about the traffic stop. Abbott is currently on administrative duties, Register said Thursday.
A portion of the police dashcam video shows Abbott trying to talk a woman out of her vehicle so he can impound her car. Much of the conversation is inaudible. When he tells her to reach for her phone in her lap, she responds, “I just don’t want to put my hands down.”
“I’ve just seen way too many videos of cops…” she continues amid the garbled crosstalk, prompting his response.
“But you’re not black. Remember? We only kill black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right? All the videos you’ve seen, have you seen (inaudible) people get killed?”
The video caused widespread outcry after its release on Wednesday, leading to the department’s recommendation to terminate Abbott’s employment, Register said.
When viewed in context, Abbott’s lawyer said the video showed that “his comments were clearly aimed at attempting to gain compliance by using the passenger’s own statements and reasoning to avoid making an arrest.”
Register acknowledged that the internal review suggested Abbott was attempting to invoke “a sarcastic standpoint” to handle the situation. However, such comments threaten to undermine the public’s trust in law enforcement, he said.
“In my opinion, I feel that no matter what context you try to take those comments in, the statements were inexcusable and inappropriate and they’re not indicative of the values that I’m trying to instill within the Cobb County Police Department and I believe that the county holds,” he said.
“My staff’s worked hard. Men and women who wear the Cobb County uniform have worked hard. And, I think that we have done some great things here in the last few months. And, it’s sad to think that several seconds of video has the potential of tearing that apart.”