Cobb officer suspended two weeks after controversial traffic stop

Cobb County Police Officer Maurice Lawson, who was involved in a controversial traffic stop with racial overtones, has been suspended without pay for two weeks.

Cobb Police Chief John Houser announced the suspension, which will be served Jan. 25-28 and Feb. 1-4, through a memo to the officer on Friday.

“Loss of emotional control, statements that can be construed as racially biased or insensitive, and unnecessary banter and invitations to step out of a vehicle that have the potential to lead to an altercation are unacceptable and damaging to the citizens involved and our community as a whole,” Houser wrote in the memo.

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Community activists went to the Cobb County Police Department Friday morning, to recommend that Police Chief John Houser meet with the African American motorist that was the subject of a controversial traffic stop in November before deciding on punishment for the officer involved.

Officer Maurice Lawson pulled over Fulton County middle school teacher Brian Baker Nov. 16.

The officer's dash board video camera picked up several controversial statements during the incident, including Lawson telling Baker "I don't care about your people;" asking him if he wanted to get out of his car to talk to him; and telling his fellow officers "I lose my cool every time" after Baker left.

Houser was not in the office Friday, but a member of the department’s command staff said the chief would meet with the activists in the future, according to Ben Williams, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition.

It is unclear if Houser will talk to Baker before the discipline, if any, is announced. A police spokesman did not immediately return a message from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lawson and his attorney, Lance LoRusso, participated in a disciplinary hearing Wednesday.

“We are beginning to pick up some vibe that a method is underway to justify Lawson’s behavior, to diminish his actions as simply being discourteous,” Williams said.

LoRusso told multiple media outlets in advance of Lawson's hearing this week that the officer was guilty of nothing more than being discourteous. He was not immediately available for comment Friday.

Cobb Public Safety Director Sam Heaton has asked the county attorney's office to investigate the traffic stop, and the department's subsequent handling of the incident — including a captain's unilateral decision to reduce to warnings two tickets issued to Baker after issuing a letter of apology to Baker.

The county attorney has submitted a recommendation to the department in terms of Lawson’s discipline, but has not completed its review of police leadership’s handling. The recommendation has not been made public.

Baker’s attorney, Kimberly Bandoh, said she thinks the chief should hear her client’s side of the story before deciding on punishment for the officer.

“It’s the least they should do since they’ve already acknowledged (Lawson) was wrong and apologized to Brian,” she said.


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