In September of this year, Ed Stone, who is on the Board of Directors of Georgia Carry, had a telling encounter with a Fayetteville Georgia police officer. The encounter began when Mr. Stone, a former cop himself and an attorney, made what he called the “universal gesture for slowing down” to Officer Terry Fortner as Fortner passed him going at a high rate of speed (71 in a 45 according to the dashcam) without his lights or sirens activated. Apparently, Fortner didn’t take kindly to a mere mundane suggesting that he slow down. He pulled Mr. Stone over and threatened him with arrest. This is Mr. Stone’s description of the encounter.
I saw a police car approaching at 20-25 over, and I quickly checked the speedometer to make sure I was not unintentionally speeding. Nope. Speed was right at the limit. He must not have been after me.
The police car is about to pass me, and I make the universal gesture for slowing down, by pushing my hand down twice, and mouthing “slow down” when the officer looks at me.
He slams on his brakes, slows down too much, then speeds up beside me while rolling down his window. He does not look pleased.
“Slow down,” I repeat audibly.
I think he replied, “Are you serious?” before pulling in behind me and activating his lights.
So I stop and have my license in hand, and he comes up to my window, oddly untactical by placing his entire body right in the middle of the window. I ask why he pulled me over, and he listed some things.
I will not try to pretend this is verbatim or in exact chronological order, but the audio on the video should have an accurate record. He claimed I was disrupting traffic, obstructing an officer, and committing disorderly conduct, and that I was going to be arrested. I handed over my license. He asked if I still lived in Senoia, and I confirmed that I did. He asked something else, and I told him I would not be answering any questions without a lawyer present.
I do not remember exactly when, but I told him that I believed he had pulled me over with no reasonable suspicion of a crime, and I asked for my license back and for him to release me.
He also informed me that he was “on an alarm call.”
I told him that I hoped his audio and video was on, and he assured me that it was.
He went back to his car while I waited several minutes, careful to keep my left hand out the window and my right on the seat back and otherwise not move so that he would not later claim any furtive movements.
When he returned, he handed me my license and a business card with City Ordinance 62-11 Police Interfering with written on the back. He started on a rant, but since I had my license back, I asked if he was continuing to detain me.
“Yes!” He pulled the door open and ordered me out of the car.
There was not time to roll up the window, retrieve my keys, and lock it. So much for that plan. I did not have my gun on my belt, because I was coming from church. Officer Fortner saw my 10mm on the floorboard and hesitated for less than a second before ignoring it.
I walked behind my bumper to make sure that I was on video in case this joker attacked me. I folded my hands in front of me to make sure that I did not have any movements that he could claim were hostile or threatening. I faced his windshield.
“Have you ever been to jail?”
He repeated the question, and I neither moved nor answered.
At some point he started telling me that he had been trying to let me go. I told him that I asked him if I was still being detained, and his answer was “yes.”
“You interrupted me!”
“Am I free to go?”
“Thank you,” I said, as I immediately turned on my heel and headed for my truck door.
The dashcam video backs up Mr. Stone’s description of what occurred.
Officer Fortner clearly demonstrates the power trip that many officers seem to exhibit. His own words are telling. He asks Mr. Stone “what causes you to believe that you have the right to flag a police officer and tell me to slow down?” Officer Fortner seems to believe that he should be able to be as reckless as he wants, and you the slave should just shut up and mind your own business. He might as well have said, “See this shiny piece of metal on my chest? It means I can do whatever the hell I want to do. How dare you suggest otherwise? You are just a lowly citizen.”
Officer Fortner goes on to tell Mr. Stone that he was en route to an alarm call. If it was true that he was responding to an alarm call, an apparent emergency that required him to go almost 30 mph over the speed limit, why did he feel that he had the time to stop Mr. Stone for over 8 minutes in order to chastise him for a simple gesture?
Mr. Stone should be commended for how well he handled the officer’s power trip. He did exceptionally well and did just about everything right. He did file a complaint and Officer Fortner’s superior found that his “conduct was unbecoming” and that “his actions will be corrected through Department disciplinary measures.” I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t make me feel any better. “Department disciplinary measures” are unlikely to change the mindset that made this officer feel he could detain an individual for the horrible crime of expecting an officer to follow the laws that he himself expects others to follow.
Hat tip to jasonpye.com for the story.