April 20 2016 06:45 AM
Eaton Co. deputy resigns to avoid disciplinary hearing
By Todd Heywood
One Eaton County deputy sheriff resigned, a member of the command staff received a written reprimand and a 28-year-old Grand Ledge man is negotiating a settlement with the county after his video showed an abusive and improper arrest during a June 2014 traffic stop.
The video raises a series of questions about the deputy’s improper actions, filing false information in a police report and failure to wear and use a body-worn video camera in violation of a previous command order. Similar videos across the country have sparked outrage in the past years.
“It is important to know that the deputy did not spend one more minute on the road after the command staff became aware of that video,” Eaton County Undersheriff Jeff Cook said.
The discredited traffic stop resulted in the arrest of Todd Michael Brenizer for resisting and obstructing a police officer. But based on video he shot on his cellphone, the charges were dropped.
Greg Brown, the deputy shown on the video throwing open the driver’s side door and aggressively trying to remove Brenizer from the car, resigned just weeks before he faced a final disciplinary hearing that would have likely resulted in his firing, Sheriff Tom Reich said.
The incident happened on June 16, 2014, at about 2:40 p.m., according to an incident report filed by Brown and obtained by City Pulse through the Freedom of Information Act.
Brown wrote that he stopped Brenizer’s dark-colored Pontiac Sunfire because a tail light was out.
Brown alleged in his report Brenizer was “agitated and upset and requesting why I stopped him.” Brenizer produced his driver’s license and registration, but he was unable to locate his proof of insurance. Brown took the registration and license and ran the then 26-year-old through criminal databases to make sure there were no outstanding warrants — a standard procedure during a traffic stop.
He then wrote Brenizer tickets for the broken tail light and lacking proof of insurance.
While Brown was writing the ticket and running Brenizer through state criminal databases, Brenizer pulled out his cell phone, placed it on the steering wheel and began recording himself and the driver’s side window of his vehicle. City Pulse obtained the Brenizer cellphone video through a FOIA request as well.
The entire traffic stop should have been recorded by Brown, but wasn’t. He had been ordered to wear the camera based on a previous incident.
“There was concern about his treatment — verbal treatment — of someone, so he was ordered to wear a body-worn camera particularly on traffic stops,” Cook said.
The video shot by Brenizer contradicts much of what Brown filed in his report on the incident.
Brown stated that he told Brenizer he had the right to ask the deputy questions, but “I told him the vehicle was blocking traffic and I needed him to move the vehicle.”
The video shows no such exchange. Brown wrote that he moved to the back of the vehicle because he did not “feel safe” with the driver “screaming and yelling.”
Brenizer’s cell phone video indicates that he was agitated, but not screaming and yelling.
It shows Brown delivering the ticket. Brenizer is asking questions of the deputy about the stop and asked for Brown’s name and badge number.
“It’s on the ticket,” Brown said. “Take the ticket.”
Brenizer took the ticket; the deputy turned away.
“I have a question for you sir,” Brenizer said as Brown turned and took a step away. Brenizer leaned out the window and says, “I have a question for you officer.”
“Get out the road or I’m going to arrest you right now,” Brown replied, as he came back to the driver window.
“For what?” Brenizer asked.
“That’s it. Get the fuck out the car,” Brownsaid, opening the driver’s side door and reaching into the vehicle and placing his hands on Brenizer.
“Whoa, get the fuck — why are you touching me? I haven’t done anything wrong,” Brenizer said as Brown grabbed Brenizer’s wrist, then his head and attempted to pull him out of the vehicle. Brenizer resisted; Brown pauseed, called for backup, then struggled with Brenizer some more. He then removed his taser. He ordered Brenizer from the vehicle. Brenizer complied, and was handcuffed.
“This is bad, bad, bad,” Sheriff Reich said of his own response to the video.
In Brown’s version of the incident, he wrote that he hoped Brenizer would exit the vehicle and come and speak with him. When Brenizer did not, Brown said he “advised” him to leave.
“At this point he would not leave the scene and I walked back to the driver’s side door and proceeded to open the door and told him to step out of the vehicle,” Brown wrote.
“At that point Brenizer said he did not want to step out of the vehicle and follow my commands. I then gave him loud verbal commands to step out of the vehicle and follow my directions, at which point he did not. At that point I grabbed hold of Brenizer’s left wrist to escort him out of the vehicle. Brenizer then grabbed one of my wrists and pulled me into the vehicle with him.”
Brown wrote that he struck Brenizer to “disengage” him then, fearing for his safety and concerned Brenizer would “take off in the vehicle,” he stepped back and removed his taser. He threatened to tase Brenizer.
The video showed Brown pulling his taser and pointing it at Brenizer, but Brown at no point warns the driver he would be tased. Instead, he ordered Brenizer to get on the ground, which he did.
“A person that’s yelling some questions out the window at an officer does not constitute a reason to arrest someone for resisting and obstructing,” Cook, the undersheriff, said.
Despite the obvious contradictions in his report from what Brenizer recorded, Brown was never charged with either assault or filing a false police report.
Eaton County Prosecutor Douglas Lloyd did not respond to phone calls and an email seeking comment on this case.
Cook said that following the internal investigation of Brown’s conduct, a sergeant in the department was given a written reprimand for failing to bring the video to the attention of command staff sooner.
Facing dismissal from the job, Brown resigned on June 30. He has since been hired by the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department.
“I think the sheriff was fully aware of what happened here,” Reich said of Lenawee County Sheriff Jack Welsh. “I was told that personally by the sheriff in Lenawee.”
“We’re not saying he saw the video,” Cook added.
Welsh declined to comment, citing personnel issues.
But Reich said he personally would not have hired Brown if he had seen the video.
“If I saw that — I’d have been very irritated. I would have been very upset,” Reich said. “He wouldn’t have been hired here.”
Todd Heywood, April 20 2016 06:45 AM, Lansing City Pulse, “Traffic stop gone bad”, http://lansingcitypulse.com/article-13044-Traffic-stop-gone-bad.html?platform=hootsuite