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Police push back on Brooks' claim of cop's conduct

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Elizabeth City Police Department responded to a complaint from former City Councilor Michael Brooks on Friday, rejecting his account of a traffic stop in which he claimed an officer acted unprofessionally toward him.

Brooks criticized the officer, whom he did not name, during the public comment portion of Monday’s City Council meeting. Brooks claimed that, in a recent traffic stop, an officer pulled him over for a broken brake light after Brooks waved at him, and that the officer said he should have had his things in order before “you pick at” a police officer.

A press release from the police department contradicts that account, stating that the officer’s stop of Brooks was cordial from start to finish.

The release also notes the department doesn’t normally respond to complaints about traffic stops.

“However, because Mr. Brooks has publicly made accusations about his traffic stop, and because those remarks have been repeated in the newspaper, the department feels it is necessary to respond,” the release states.

The reference was to a story about Brooks’ allegations published in The Daily Advance on Thursday.

The release states that Buffaloe examined video footage from both the police officer’s dash-cam and body-worn cameras.

Summarizing the incident, the release states Brooks’ Jeep Cherokee had a non-functioning brake light, which led to the traffic stop. Brooks also did wave at the officer as he was passing, the release states.

But the release states the officer told Brooks, “cordially and jokingly,” “Man, you are making me feel bad. You wave to me, but then you got a brake light out and no seat belt on.”

Brooks said he took his seat belt off when the officer approached; the officer accepted that explanation, the release states. The release continues that the officer and Brooks talked about how common it is for a driver to not know about a broken brake light, and the officer said he stopped Brooks to make sure he was aware of it.

The release also notes the officer did not threaten to issue a warning or citation, “although he could have done so.”

The release continues that the entire encounter was pleasant, and the officer never accused Brooks of “picking at” him, nor did he say anything “remotely similar” to what Brooks claimed at the council meeting.

The release concludes: “Law enforcement officers everywhere encounter difficult situations daily. Occasionally, they may contribute to them. Nothing about this encounter that Mr. Brooks experienced could be described as negative, unprofessional or improper in any way. … It is difficult to understand why Mr. Brooks decided to complain about this encounter to anyone, let alone the chief, the city manager, the city council or anyone else.”

In an interview with The Daily Advance on Tuesday, Brooks stood by his account of the incident. He said he complained about the traffic stop not to seek disciplinary action for the officer, but to encourage officers to approach the public better.

Brooks, who last served on council in 2017, is again running for City Council. He’s seeking to return to a seat in the Third Ward, challenging incumbent Councilors Rickey King and Kem Spence.

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