Georgia Voices: Traffic stop proves controversial
by The Savannah Morning News
March 31, 2014 08:44 PM | 2047 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There’s an unwritten rule when you’re pulled over by a cop: Sit tight. Don’t jump out of the vehicle. It makes officers nervous. Bad things can — and do — happen.

Unfortunately, multiple mistakes were made last summer, when a Metro officer pulled over Robert Cutter during a routine traffic stop.

Mr. Cutter is the husband of City Manager Stephanie Cutter. Because he mentioned this relationship to the officer who stopped him on July 15, 2013 — out of fear, he said — this stop has attracted public attention.

Because the officer, Frank Reteguiz, claimed he was the victim of retaliation for doing his job, it rightly merited an independent investigation by an outside law firm the city uses. And because the incident became public at a time when Ms. Cutter is paying another independent company to investigate the troubled police department — her responsibility — the mess is now under a microscope.

The verdict? It’s embarrassing. But it doesn’t rise to the same level of outrage that other acts of local government have triggered.

Mr. Cutter said the officer pointed the firearm at him; the officer denied it, and another officer at the scene reported that the weapon was pointed at the ground. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Mr. Cutter wisely followed the officer’s order to get back into his vehicle. He then got a traffic ticket for driving without a seat belt.

The fine for this offense is $15, a clerk at Savannah-Chatham Recorder’s Court said.

Simply paying this modest penalty might have been the end of it. But Mr. Cutter complained about excessive use of force, prompting an internal investigation. The officer — a cop for two years with Metro — was placed on paid leave and ordered to undergo training, as supervisors believed that he shouldn’t have drawn his gun. That prompted the officer, who had not been previously disciplined, to claim retaliation.

Conclusion: There were multiple wrongs. Mr. Cutter shouldn’t have budged when stopped.

Officer Reteguiz apparently overreacted, his supervisors ruled. Consider the liability to taxpayers if this tense situation ended badly. This is why training is essential. It protects police officers and the public.

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