Police dashcam video obtained by WSB-TV in Atlanta quickly went viral on Thursday when the New York Times and other major outlets carried the story of a police officer attempting to calm a motorist down during a traffic stop. Lt. Greg Abbott of the Cobb County Police Department didn’t threaten the woman, who was apparently afraid to move her hands and use her phone, but he did tell her she’s “not black” and will be okay: “Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah. We only kill black people, right?”
Accordign to WSB-TV, which obtained the footage through an open-records request, Cobb County police Chief Mike Register has opened an internal investigation into the Abbott’s comments following the station’s inquiries. “No matter what context it was said,” Register said of the remarks, “it shouldn’t have been said.” Abbott has since been placed on administrative duties while the department’s investigation proceeds. The traffic stop occurred near Marietta, Georgia on July 10th, 2016, at about 3 a.m. local time.
The male driver, who is being represented by attorney Surinder Chadha Jimenez, was pulled over by Abbott on suspicion of driving under the influence. Jimenez spoke with both WSB-TV and the Times about the incident, saying the female passenger apparently “kept going back and forth” with the officer, who “didn’t like the way” she was talking to him. “It makes you cringe when you hear it. It’s unacceptable,” he said. The unidentified woman apparently wanted to use her cellphone during the traffic stop, but was too afraid to move her hands — prompting Abbott to say she had watched “way too many videos” about police behavior.
In a statement to WSB-TV, attorney Lance LoRusso described Abbott as a “highly respected 28-year veteran of the Cobb County Police Department” who was simply “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.” Even so, Chief Register told the station, “We’re not making excuses. We’re meeting this head-on and we’re going to deal with it.”