The DeKalb County (Ga.) Sheriff’s Office has launched an investigation into what has been termed “unnecessarily aggressive” and “unprofessional” conduct by a number of its personnel during an incident that took place in Ellenwood, about 20 miles southeast of Atlanta.
In the small hours of July 26, DeKalb County SO personnel were reportedly serving an arrest warrant for Natania Griffin for failing to pay a $1,000 fee, according to WSB-TV. The entire incident was captured on cell phone video shot by Griffin’s two sons.
The local news media had to edit down the 19 minutes of video (for fairly obvious reasons). You can see that shortened version of events here, but if you want to irretrievably forfeit a third of an hour of your life (like I did), check out the full video below.
Trust me when I tell you it doesn’t reflect all that well on the professionalism of the LEOs involved.
A Disciplinary Mess
DCSO Chief Deputy Jeffery Mann told WSB-TV, “The language that was used was unprofessional and I suspect there will be some disciplinary action.”
File that one under “candidates for understatement of the year.”
Upon seeing this video, a cop friend of mine remarked, “This is what it looks like when a dozen careers end.” My buddy may have been off only by the precise number of coppers whose careers will be severely affected — if not permanently ended — by this video.
Doubtlessly, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department is going to receive some serious scrutiny for this incident. It may eventually be forced to take steps like making a show of firing people and issuing declarations of new policies and procedures. It’s also fair to predict that a lawsuit will be filed (if one hasn’t already been).
PoliceOne Members commenting on our news post are predicting visits to Ellenwood by the likes of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. I’m a little surprised this hasn’t yet been in heavy rotation on CNN, since Ellenwood is a stone’s throw from their Atlanta headquarters.
In the Career Newsletter that likely hit your email inbox yesterday, my friend and PoliceOne colleague Joel Shults wrote that the behavior of a cop many miles away has a direct — and all too often negative — impact on citizens’ perceptions of him and his officers.
“Don’t send me your mess,” was his message.
What sort of mess might Joel have been talking about? Unfortunately, examples abound:
Right, wrong, or indifferent, those are just a handful of the news headlines posted to the Officer Misconduct / Internal Affairs page in the past week (in reverse chronological order). Now we can add the mess in Ellenwood to that list.
Are false accusations of misconduct made against cops?
Sure, it happens on a daily basis, but we cannot ignore the fact that some bad apples really are ruining the bushel.
To paraphrase former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, we know that we don’t know certain details — it’s the things we don’t know we don’t know that tend to get us into real trouble — about any/all of the above incidents.
Same is true in the case in Ellenwood.
I haven’t read the arrest warrant and I don’t know whether or not a warrant to enter and search the home existed. I don’t know the history of calls to this residence, or the perceived threat posed by subjects inside. I don’t know what the 911 operator told the son when he called.
What I do know is this: Any video in which an officer says “I’mma ‘tase’ the shit out your ass” and “I wish I could cane y’all asses” will be fodder for anybody predisposed to an anti-cop agenda.
The fact that this video even exists makes it unnecessarily hard for truly great cops to be recognized as being what they are — truly great.
The Militarization Debate
One final thought. The mainstream media — such as the Wall Street Journal, The Huckabee Show, and Business Insider, to name just a few — has increasingly been making hay on the topic of “militarization” of police in the United States, and that trend seems to show no sign of slowing.
The officers — at least those I could observe on the video — in the Ellenwood incident in July were uniformed patrol, not SWAT.
As tortured and as inappropriate as any such grouping and/or comparison might be, there’s a very good chance that this will get lumped into the presently-vogue debate on “police militarization” in America.
In part to counter the spread of misinformation, beginning next week, we’ll feature a special series of articles by PoliceOne columnists such as Jack Hoban, Joanne Eldridge, Joel Shults, Glenn French, Dan Marcou, Dick Fairburn, Lance Eldridge, and others on the topic of “police militarization.”
We’ve discussed the topic periodically during the past half decade or so, and I encourage you to stay tuned...
About the author
Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 750 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA). Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.
Read more articles by PoliceOne Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie by clicking here.