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Georgia Police Officer Suspended After Screaming Obscenity At Black Woman

"I just panicked. I just, it was like my heart exploded," Rose Campbell told local WSB TV, after she was pulled from her vehicle and screamed at during an arrest over a traffic stop.
Alpharetta Department of Public Safety
"I just panicked. I just, it was like my heart exploded," Rose Campbell told local WSB TV, after she was pulled from her vehicle and screamed at during an arrest over a traffic stop.

The Alpharetta, Ga., police department has suspended an officer and opened an internal investigation, after a traffic stop of a black woman devolved into the officer screaming an obscenity at the woman and pulling her roughly from her vehicle.

"I just panicked. I just, it was like my heart exploded," motorist Rose Campbell, 65, later told local WSB TV. "I didn't expect that in America. I didn't expect that in Atlanta. I didn't expect that especially in Alpharetta."

Captured on video, Officer James Legg's actions "simply do not represent who we are as an organization," Alpharetta Public Safety Chief John Robison said in a statement as the agency released dashcam footage of the encounter. Here's the video; we'll caution that it includes profanity.

The incident took place at a busy intersection in the northern Atlanta suburb on the night of May 4. That's when an officer stopped Campbell, saying she had turned too sharply at an intersection, encroaching on his lane as two rows of cars turned left.

Campbell didn't agree that she had drifted from her lane — and she refused to sign the citation, saying it was tantamount to admitting guilt. Georgia law requires motorists to either sign a ticket or be taken to jail.

Campbell asked to speak to a supervisor. The officer who stopped her, Michael Swerdlove, relayed that request.

Soon afterward, Swerdlove ordered Campbell to step outside her SUV. After she refused, he opened her door. They continued to argue, with Swerdlove ordering her out, and Campbell saying she would wait for the supervisor. A physical struggled ensued, with Swerdlove attempting to pull the driver out of her vehicle. At one point, Campbell tried to pull the door shut, bumping the officer.

"You're under arrest for disorderly conduct," Swerdlove said.

"No sir," Campbell said. "This is abusive behavior."

She added, "I need the supervisor. This is ridiculous. I need the supervisor."

Swerdlove later added that she was resisting arrest, and he called for backup.

That's when several officers arrived, including Legg.

As Swerdlove and another officer grappled with Campbell, she said that if Swerdlove took his hands off of her, she would get out.

"I'll come out for you," she said. "I won't come out for him."

"All right," the officer said, as Swerdlove began backing away.

That's when Legg leaned in to point and scream at Campbell: "Hey! You're not in charge! Shut the f*** up and get out of the car!"

"Who are you talking to?" Campbell asked.


After Campbell got out, Legg grabbed her roughly and helped to pull her hands behind her back, prompting Campbell to cry out and again ask for the shift supervisor.

With at least six officers now on the scene, Campbell was put in handcuffs and led to a police car.

After watching the video, Robison said, he "immediately ordered that an internal affairs investigation be opened" — and he pledged that it would bring a "decisive and appropriate outcome."

"We strive to be a transparent department," Robison said. "However, if we are going to be 100 percent transparent, that means that we also must be willing to share with you any major concerns that arise regarding employee performance and behavior."

Campbell told WSB that she doesn't want Legg to lose his job, saying, "Disciplinary action should be taken with that gentleman."

She also said she would like for him to get new training; as for herself, she'd like to get an apology.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.