Thanks to body and dash cameras, cops are being cleared of false accusations left and right.
The revelation this week that a Texas woman had falsely accused a state trooper of sexually assaulting her during a traffic stop is the latest of several in the last two years alone in which video footage was critical to clearing a police officer of alleged wrongdoing.
In this latest case, the woman, Sherita Dixon-Cole, had accused Trooper Daniel Hubbard of sexual advances after she failed a field sobriety test. Moreover, she went on to accuse him of assaulting her in his police car, and continuing to make advances, promising he’d release her from custody, on the drive to the booking facility.
But two hours of body cam footage discredited the allegations, prompting Dixon-Cole’s attorney—Lee Merritt—to call his client’s fabrication “appalling.”
“Officer Daniel Hubbard seems to comport himself professionally during the duration of the traffic stop and arrest and—without more—should be cleared of any wrongdoing,” he said in a statement.
“It is deeply troubling when innocent parties are falsely accused, and I am truly sorry for any trouble these claims may have caused Officer Hubbard and his family. I take full responsibility for amplifying these claims to the point of national concern.”
It begs the question, “Where would police officers be without body and dash cams to exonerate them?”
Here are other cases in which video footage contradicted accusations against officers:
Timmonsville, South Carolina
The president of a South Carolina chapter of the NAACP accused an officer several weeks ago of profiling him during a stop. The chapter president alleged that the officer accused him of having drugs, asked him what he was doing in the neighborhood and threatened to put him in jail.
The accuser, the Rev. Jerrod Moultrie, took to Facebook to say, “Tonight, I was racially profiled by Timmonsville Officer CAUSE I WAS DRIVING A MERCEDES BENZ AND GOING HOME IN A NICE NEIGHBORHOOD.”
But body camera footage showed no such comments were made, infuriating Timmonsville Police Chief Billy Brown. “When I saw the video, I was shocked that someone who is supposed to be a community leader, a pastor and head of the NAACP would just come out and tell a blatant lie.”
Chief Brown continued:
It bothered me. It really bothered me, thinking about the racial unrest it could’ve cost in the community and it’s just troubling to me that someone who held a position like that would come out and just tell a lie. It bothered me. It really bothered me, thinking about the racial unrest it could’ve cost in the community and it’s just troubling to me that someone who held a position like that would come out and just tell a lie.
Harker Heights, Texas
A Harker Heights, Texas woman accused police of brutality and wrongful arrest after a New Year’s Eve party. But video and audio evidence indicated the woman, Leah Dure, was injured before encountering Officer Joshua Wood through an altercation with her boyfriend, her boyfriend’s wife and others, reported KCENTV.com
Her attorney, Lee Merritt, (same one representing Sherita Dixon-Cole) then announced that he was no longer representing Dure.
“There is no factual basis to believe that Officer Joshua Wood committed an assault against Leah Dure,” Merritt said in an updated statement.
The article says Merritt deleted his original Facebook post accusing Officer Wood of assault, but not before the post was shared more than 11,400 times. Furthermore, the post initially accused the wrong agency (Killeen Police Department) before Merritt changed the post.
Attorney Robert McCabe, who represents Officer Wood, denounced the false accusation, saying it inflamed racial tensions and hurt the cause of people with legitimate grievances against law enforcement.
WARNING: Video contains strong language
Rainbow City, Alabama
Last year, a Facebook post out of Alabama claimed that a police officer had beaten a man “half to death and pushed him off a bridge” after a traffic stop, AL.com reported.
But a video released by the Rainbow City Police Department contradicted the allegations. It showed that officers were checking the name given by the man—a passenger in the car—and found it to be fraudulent. The police checked his real name, provided by the driver, and learned that his probation had been revoked due to two felony warrants.
As they approached the man to question him about the warrants, he took off, crossing two lanes of traffic and jumped off a bridge.
The police used a Taser when the man would not comply with their orders. The video, according to published reports, disproved the allegations against the police, showing that the use of the Taser was the only contact authorities used throughout the episode.
DeKalb County, Georgia
In 2016, a Georgia fire captain and fire department employee accused a police officer of being hostile and threatening during a traffic stop over an expired license tag. However, a dash and body camera showed otherwise.
During the stop, DeKalb County Fire and Rescue Captain Terrell Davis threatened to call the county’s public safety director, Cedric Alexander. As Sgt. Stephen Floyd wrote the ticket, another fire employee said the matter would be reported to Alexander.
The employee, Krystal Cathcart, filed a complaint alleging that Floyd told her to keep quiet, using vulgarities and threatening to throw her in the “back of my squad car.” Davis supported her version of events, FOX 5 Atlanta reported. Video footage showed no such exchange.
Davis was fired, but then was reinstated, according to the local Fox 5 Atlanta. Last year, Cathcart pleaded guilty to one count of filing a false statement. She received a two-year probated sentence, and was ordered to complete 40 hours’ community service, write two letters of apology and pay a $500 fine.
Brunswick County, Virginia
In a FB Live video that went viral, Dawn Hilton-Williams described a traffic stop on Route 58 westbound in rural Brunswick County while behind the wheel of her car.
“I was just bullied by a racist cop, who threatened to pull me out of the car,” said Hilton-Williams in the 11-minute long Facebook video.
“This is where we got lynched. This is where we got lynched, even in today’s day.”
The traffic stop occurred on April 27, when Hilton-Williams was heading home to Greensville, South Carolina after watching her daughter play in a tennis tournament, LET reported.
In the video, Hilton-Williams said she feared for her life.
As the Facebook video accumulated nearly 800 shares, it was brought to the attention of Brunswick County Sheriff Brian Roberts.
“I started getting calls from citizens asking what is going on. They had seen a posting and were concerned about how I would allow it to happen,” said Roberts.
After reviewing body cam footage of the traffic stop, Roberts said the stop was completely by the book, and his deputy did nothing wrong.
“I don’t know what she has been through and I don’t know her life history, what I worry about is this kind of thing will inflame situations where you see cops in other states have been executed while they were just eating lunch,” said Roberts.
With those concerns in mind, Roberts released the full body cam video.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Officers of North Little Rock Police Department made a traffic stop on a vehicle occupied by two men and 17-year-old Charles Smith Jr. in the early morning hours of January 7, 2018. The encounter eventually turned fatal.
Before violence erupted during the detention, officers asked the occupants to exit the vehicle as they performed their investigation.
As a result, two of the occupants sat on the curb while another officer searched the teen. In the video that was released (included below), you can hear one of the officers engaging in conversational banter with Smith.
“You ain’t got nothing crazy on you do you? I’m going to check real quick alright,” he said. Moreover, the officer converses about his tennis shoes and asks how he likes them.
However, Smith begins to display diversion tactics, forcing the officer to ask him three different times to quit reaching into his pocket.
Suddenly, Smith breaks away and attempts to flee.
Smith runs and is tackled in front of the two people sitting on the curb. As he falls to the ground, Smith cries out, “I can’t go to jail!”
He pulls a handgun from his pocket, firing once in the direction of the people sitting on the curb, nearly hitting them, and then shoots again at the officers, narrowly missing an officer. The officers returned fire, killing Smith.
A second handgun, this one reportedly stolen, was found in the car.
Following the shooting there was outrage on social media. Worse yet, a false narrative began claiming Smith didn’t have a gun and was shot for no reason.
In an interview the day after the shooting, Smith’s brother Juwaun Jordan said, “They say he resisted, but he wasn’t moving. He was talking. He wasn’t doing [anything],” he continued. “They were tussling him to the ground…When they were on the ground, one of them jumped up off of him, one shot went off, and [the officer] was like ‘he got a gun.’”
The false rumors forced North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis to action. He called a press conference to release the dash cam footage of the shooting. According to the chief, the video was presented to the family prior to the press conference.
“Misinformation gets out that says … the subject wasn’t armed, the subject didn’t shoot,” Davis said in a statement to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “He was armed and we, in fact, had to take action because of that. I want people to see what happened.”
Last summer, then Seattle Seahawks defensive end, Michael Bennett, made allegations that he was racially profiled during the chaos of what was believed to be an active shooter situation outside a nightclub following the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor.
Following the highly publicized incident, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said that police sorted through 861 videos, including body cameras from other officers and hotel security cameras. Of those viewed, they determined that 193 were pertinent to the investigation. From there, they said they pieced together a timeline of the incident and played video for the media at a news conference. They said Bennett’s detainment lasted about 10 minutes, seven of which were spent in a police car.
The video shown by police showed an officer with his weapon drawn over Bennett on the sidewalk. Police said Bennett was handcuffed, moved to a police vehicle and spoken to by another officer. That individual told Bennett that police were looking for an active shooter. After an exchange with police that lasted a few minutes, police took the handcuffs off Bennett and he was told he could leave. Bennett shook one of the officers’ hands and walked away.
Lombardo said the internal investigation showed that the officers behaved “appropriately and professionally” and that “the incident was not about race.” He said two other individuals were also detained in a similar manner, one black and one Hispanic.
In addition to exonerating police officers, body and dash cameras have also led the public to see open hostility toward cops.
Just a few weeks ago, a police body cam video leaked to Contact7 Investigates showed the son of Denver Mayor Michael Hancock using a slur against an Aurora police officer during a traffic stop. Moreover, he also infers the officer cannot do anything to him since his father is the mayor.
“My dad’s the mayor, you f***ing f**got,” Jordan Hancock is shown saying in the video clip.
“Of Denver? Well you’re in Aurora,” the officer responds.
“Guess what, I’m about to get you fired you f***ing b***h,” Hancock is heard saying later.
The video clip was sent to the news station by an anonymous source. Additionally, it is only about 20 seconds long and ends with 22-year-old Hancock driving away.
The interaction and subsequent citation was issued by an Aurora police officer on Friday, March 23, 2018 near the intersection of East 40th Avenue and North Walden Street shortly before 8 a.m.
The young Mr. Hancock made a mandatory court appearance later. While appearing he agreed to pay a $250 fine. The judge asked him why he was driving so fast? He simply explained he was running late.
Mayor Hancock declined requests from the news agency for an interview to discuss the video. Nevertheless, his office sent a written statement:
“We addressed this matter with Jordan and he has apologized to the Officer. While we do not support nor condone his inexcusable actions and words during this traffic stop, we love our son dearly and support him.”
However, video footage continues to create public debate regarding actions taken by officers when people fail to comply with instructions. When video evidence exonerates a police officer, it’s in and out of the news cycle within a day. However, when the Lee Merritt’s of the world sink their legal teeth into something of substance, or at least a case they believe has substance, it remains front page news and in the headlines, ad nauseam, for weeks.
For instance, body camera video showed police earlier this year confronting Milwaukee Bucks rookie, Sterling Brown, over a parking issue. The challenge was not well received and officers used force, reported USA Today.
While the video appeared inconclusive, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said at a news conference Wednesday that police officers “acted inappropriately and were disciplined.”
“I am sorry this incident escalated to this level,” Morales said.
Brown is planning to file a civil rights lawsuit against the police.
Even in ideal conditions, which rarely occur, police work is extremely difficult. Furthermore, the use of force is never pretty no matter how justified. Although many officers were initially resistant to wearing body cameras, I cannot imagine going into service without one given the hostile nature and willingness to make false accusations against our men and women in blue.
Interestingly enough, people have always lied when making preposterous claims against police. I know this from personal experience as I had the dubious task of performing internal affairs investigations for five years. Moreover, I was also named as a defendant in eight lawsuits.
Fortunately, with more agencies deploying body and dash cams, officers are exonerated much quicker. Most citizen complaints are unfounded, and now the country gets a front row seat to see why they turn out that way.
Sadly, the fact that officers are overwhelmingly cleared barely makes the news, but when they step out of line there will be a full court press against the agency and officer involved.
So, keep those cameras rolling, they may save your career! Just ask Trooper Daniel Hubbard.
– Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today