August 31, 2017 at 9:38 PM
The Georgia police officer who was captured on camera telling a woman during a traffic stop that law enforcement personnel “only kill black people” says he’ll retire amid the backlash.
Lt. Greg Abbott announced his intent to leave the Cobb County Police Department on Thursday, after his superiors told him he would be fired, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
It is unclear whether officials would accept Abbott’s resignation or follow through with their plan to terminate him. With nearly 30 years of government service, the distinction could have a profound affect on his retirement benefits. Spokespersons for the police department did not immediately respond to a message from The Washington Post.
Dash-cam video shows Abbott standing outside a vehicle during a DUI traffic stop in July 2016. A female passenger can be heard telling the officer that she did not want to put her hands down to reach for her phone because, “I’ve just seen way too many videos of cops —.”
“But you’re not black,” the officer interrupted. “Remember, we only kill black people. Yeah, we only kill black people, right?”
Speaking at a news conference Thursday, Cobb County Police Chief Mike Register described Abbott as “honorable,” but said the officer had made a mistake, the newspaper reported.
“I don’t know what is in his heart,” the chief added, indicating Abbot would be fired, “but I know what came out of his mouth.”
The department said Wednesday that Register received information late last week about an officer making “inappropriate racial comments,” which were captured on video obtained by ABC affiliate WSB.
Abbott was placed on administrative duties during an internal investigation.
Abbott’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, said Abbott is fully cooperating.
“His comments must be observed in their totality to understand their context,” LoRusso said in the statement Thursday to The Washington Post. “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.”
But the police chief said there was no excuse.
“No matter what the context, statements like these are unacceptable and are not indicative of the type of culture we are trying to facilitate here in the police department, as well as within the county,” Register said in a statement.
Suri Chadha Jimenez, an attorney who represented the driver in the DUI case, said that he had seen the video while preparing for court last summer and was “shocked” by what he had heard.
“I heard that, and I cringed. I had to replay it. I thought, ‘There’s no way,’ ” he said.
He said he thinks the officer was being sarcastic with the passenger for giving him “lip.”
“The reality is, to us minorities, there is a real fear when you’re pulled over,” he said. “He thought it was a joke, but it’s not a joke to many people.”
Jimenez, whose client’s case was resolved last month, said he’s glad the video has been exposed and hopes it will prompt the police department to provide training for its officers.
This story has been updated.