NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Just months after the city of Dunwoody settled three lawsuits alleging an officer violated drivers’ civil rights during traffic stops, another man has filed suit alleging the same.
Colton Laidlaw, then just 17 yeard old and a junior at Dunwoody High School, told Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik he was driving from a friend’s house to his work at a burger restaurant in March 2014 when Officer Dale Laskowski pulled him over.
“(He) came up to my car and stated I was speeding, and that was the reason he had pulled me over,” Laidlaw told Petchenik.
Dash cam video provided to Petchenik by Laidlaw’s attorney showed Laskowski almost immediately change the direction of the traffic stop.
“Hey, can I ask you a question?” Laskowski can be heard asking the teen. “Can you be honest with me, 100 percent honest with me. Do you use occasional recreational marijuana?”
When the teen told the officer he didn’t smoke pot, Laskowski can be seen ordering him out of the car after claiming some white residue on a car seat was marijuana.
“I don’t want to take that small leaf of that bud right there hem you up on Friday night and make you miss work and go to jail for a little bit of green,” Laskowski tells Laidlaw in the video.
For the next 30 minutes, the video showed Laskowski searching through Laidlaw’s SUV looking for evidence, at one point exclaiming: “You’ve got it everywhere, dude.”
“He rips my car apart. Doesn’t find any evidence of marijuana in my car,” Laidlaw told Petchenik. “It was total police intimidation. I was honestly scared. I didn’t know what to think.”
Laidlaw’s attorney, Mark Bullman, himself a former officer, told Petchenik that Laskowski didn’t follow any policies for drug searches.
“Nothing was collected. Nothing was tested. Nothing was sent to the lab,” he said. “If he really found marijuana all over this young man’s car, why didn’t he collect it? Why didn’t he save it? Why didn’t he charge him for possessing marijuana if it was all over his car?”
Laskowski eventually allowed Laidlaw to head off to work with just a verbal warning and a lecture about being careful.
“There’s an old saying, 'Don’t take kindness for weakness,'” he told the teen in the video. “We’re not here to jam you up, but we need to make sure you’re safe, and everyone else is safe.”
Laidlaw said the entire situation was humiliating.
“I felt he thinks he’s above the law and could intimidate anyone,” he said. “I honestly felt like he was out there profiling people, teenagers.”
Petchenik previously reported the city of Dunwoody settled three lawsuits against the department and, specifically, Laskowski filed by other drivers.
Dash cam video showed Laskowski bringing in a K-9 to search the vehicle of Dunwoody businessman, Jermaine Muhammad, during a traffic stop in 2013.
“I feel good we did the right thing and fought for justice,” Muhammad told Petchenik about the settlement, which also resulted in a Dunwoody Police Department policy change about when to call in a K-9 for searches.
At the time, Police Chief Billy Grogan told Petchenik in a statement the department did not admit any wrong-doing in making the settlement offer.
Bullman told Petchenik that Laskowski remains employed by the department, and he hoped the latest lawsuit changes that.
“When it’s a pattern of misconduct and an inability to understand and apply the law fairly to other people, you don’t deserve to be a police officer,” he said.
Petchenik received a statement from the Dunwoody police which said: "The City of Dunwoody is familiar with the lawsuit filed by Colton Laidlaw against Officer Laskowski. Due to pending litigation, we cannot comment of the facts of the case. However, we are confident that the evidence in this case will result in a finding in favor of the City of Dunwoody and Officer Laskowski."
Petchenik also left phone messages at numbers he found for Laskowski and sent him emails, seeking his side of the story.
© 2019 Cox Media Group.