3 DeKalb officers are accused of illegal search

by: Jodie Fleischer Updated:

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. —

Three DeKalb County police officers are accused of illegally searching a driver during a traffic stop.

The driver said the sergeant assigned to investigate his complaint was involved in the alleged illegal search. The accused officers are now facing a federal lawsuit.

Robert Brinson said he felt like he'd been profiled while driving before, but he had no proof. So, this time he held up his iPhone and secretly recorded his conversation with the officers and their search of his car.

The video shows Officer Norman Larsen asking, "Why would you care for us to look in your car when you've done nothing wrong?"

Brinson replied, "Because it's a waste of my time, I've got an appointment."

Larsen replied, "You could have been gone by then."

Brinson admits he was speeding on Interstate 20 near Panola Road when Larsen pulled him over. Brinson was on his way to a work appointment selling home security systems.

Records show it took Larsen only eight minutes to write Brinson's speeding ticket, but then he asked to search his vehicle for drugs or money.

"I was like, ‘You pulled me over for speeding. What does drugs have to do with anything?’" Brinson told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.

Brinson's video shows no mention of probable cause, but the officer made him get out of his rental car anyway, and then asked if he had any guns on him.  
           
Brinson recounted the conversation to Fleischer.

"I told the officer, 'I don't have anything.' He asked, 'Do you mind if I search?' And I said, 'Yeah I do mind,'" Brinson said.
          
Larsen called his supervisor and a K-9 officer out to the scene, which took approximately an hour.
          
The video shows Brinson asking, “Is this normal for someone to get pulled over for a traffic ticket and ya'll detain them?”
           
Larsen replied, "We didn't detain you. We asked you about drugs. We are just going off of these clues and everything."

Though, he did not describe any clues regarding Brinson.
           
The officers searched the vehicle and nearby woods, and found nothing.
  
"You can't just go digging in the guy's car, hoping you'll find something illegal," said Mark Bullman, Brinson's attorney.
           
Bullman has represented several claims against DeKalb County police officers and said he sees a pattern. 
           
"They do their best to try to cover up any kind of wrongdoing and blow it off as if people's constitutional rights simply just don't matter in DeKalb County," said Bullman.
           
Records show when Brinson filed a written complaint with the police department, Larsen was investigated and cleared by Sgt. George Miller, the same supervisor who he had called to the traffic stop for backup.
           
"It's a conflict of interest. How can you do an investigation on something you're basically a part of?" Brinson told Fleischer.
           
He ended up missing his appointment and lost the new contract.

"Somebody's calling me to protect their property and I don't show up on time? There's a lot of alarm companies out there," said Brinson.
           
Fleischer found two prior complaints against Officer Larsen. The first alleges he illegally searched a car and a house. The second said he tried to illegally search a car and another officer stopped him. The department cleared Larsen in all three incidents.
           
Fleischer asked the DeKalb County Attorney about the situation, but he cited a county policy which prohibits commenting on open court cases.