NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Friday 5/11/2018 UPDATE: The officer has resigned. CLICK HERE to read the latest story.
BREAKING NEWS: Officer involved in controversial traffic stop in #Alpharetta has resigned, per his lawyer.— Mike Petchenik (@MPetchenikWSB) May 11, 2018
Thursday 5/10/2018 ORIGINAL STORY: Alpharetta police have suspended an officer and opened an internal investigation into his conduct after he used profanity and forcefully grabbed a 65-year-old diabetic grandmother during a traffic stop.
Video, released to Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik after an open records request, shows the confrontation at Ga. 400 and Windward Parkway last Friday night.
“I’m going to be honest with you, I felt violated,” Rose Campbell told Petchenik. “I felt not only that my space had been violated, but that he was not respecting me.”
Police told Petchenik it started after officer Michael Swerdlove pulled Campbell over for failing to maintain her lane.
“The vehicle was making a turn off Windward Parkway, swerved over into the officer’s lane almost causing a collision,” said department spokesman Howard Miller. “He started to issue her a citation for failure to maintain lane. The driver did not agree with the officer and attempted to debate the nature of the traffic stop.”
Campbell told Petchenik she didn’t want to sign the ticket because she believed it was an admission of guilt, so she asked to see a supervisor and refused to open her door.
“He told me he was giving me a citation for failure to maintain lane. I said for what? Everybody does that when a cop gives you a ticket, unless you’re wrong, you’re gonna ask why,” she said.
At one point during the stop, Swerdlove can be heard asking Campbell to exit her SUV, but she told him she would not until a supervisor arrived. That’s when the video shows him open her door and attempt to pull her out.
“All I felt was his whole body over me and I could feel the weight over me, grabbing at my belt,” she said.
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Eventually, Swerdlove called for backup and several other officers, including James Legg, arrived.
“The officers who were responding clearly were not aware of what they were responding to,” Miller said. “The first officer that arrived to assist noticed that the driver they were dealing with was an older lady and didn’t appear to be threatening the officers when they arrived.”
After Campbell agreed to exit, the video shows an unprovoked Legg begin to cuss and yell at her, and then grab her arm in a jerking motion.
“Am I in a movie? Is this a movie? I couldn’t believe it. It was surreal,” she told Petchenik. “I didn’t expect that in America. I didn’t expect that in Atlanta. I didn’t expect that especially in Alpharetta.”
In the video, Campbell can be heard screaming loudly for help.
“I was scared,” she said. “I felt like I was ganged up on."
Alpharetta Police Chief John Robison released a taped statement to Petchenik Thursday in which he said he reviewed the video and immediately suspended Legg for his actions.
“As I was watching the video I had some major concerns about what I was seeing,” Robison said. “There are aspects of the video…that simply do not represent who we are as an organization.”
Robison said he’s ordered an internal affairs investigation and promised swift action at the conclusion of the investigation.
“They need to be put on suspension, disciplinary action without pay. That normally works in the brain,” said Campbell. “I don’t like the issue of firing people. I think everyone has a space for redemption.”
Campbell has retained a civil rights attorney, Mutepe Akemon, but said Thursday she wasn’t sure if she’d take legal action.
She said she wants an apology from the city and the police department.
“I was offended. We have a 65-year-old diabetic grandmother here who was summarily attacked,” Akemon told Petchenik. “We need a full investigation from the GBI and from the internal affairs division of the Alpharetta police.”
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