A new podcast investigating the long-running TV show “Cops” is putting the spotlight back on a Gwinnett County case that appeared on the show and resulted in a lawsuit accusing an officer of planting evidence.
“Running From COPS,” is the third series in the podcast anthology “Headlong,” which “explores the lives of overlooked people, moments and events in our culture,” according to its website. Previous seasons include the viral hit “Missing Richard Simmons,” which explored the disappearance of fitness guru Richard Simmons from the public eye.
“Running from COPS” explores the reality series that follows American police officers on the job. The show has been running for 30 years, releasing hundreds of episodes. The series continues to release new epsiodes while re-runs air in syndication.
Bookending the six-episode podcast investigation is the 2013 Gwinnett County case. With “Cops” cameras following, Gwinnett County officer Paul Tremblay questioned a man and a woman in a parked car, asking if they had drugs. After searching the car, he found an object that he said tested positive for cocaine, prompting the arrest of the man and woman, who were charged with loitering and possession of cocaine. The arrest was later broadcast as part of a 2013 "Cops" episode.
After the object was later tested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, it came back negative for any controlled substances, including cocaine. The woman charged after that traffic stop, Elizabeth Butler, sued the county, saying Tremblay didn’t have probable cause to arrest her and could have planted evidence. The lawsuit never reached a jury.
Podcast host Dan Taberski and a team of producers watched more than 800 episodes of “Cops” in research for the series and interviewed 105 people, including Butler’s attorney and the man who was arrested alongside Butler in 2013. The man, who has not been identified in previous press reports or in Taberski’s podcast, spent six months in jail before charges against him were dropped. Following his release, he relapsed on drugs after months of sobriety, Taberski said.
“However you want to interpret that video, it affected his life in a really intense way,” Taberski said in an interview with the AJC.
The show spotlights the Gwinnett County case in part because the podcast team received the full, unedited video of the traffic stop, something “unheard of” in reality TV, said Taberski, who has a professional history in the reality TV industry.
“I know how the sausage is made, and what I saw on that video really shocked me,” Taberski said.
The case is featured in the first episode of the season, which is available to listeners. The unedited video will be discussed in the sixth and final episode, which has not yet been released. That episode will explore the video and show the differences between it and the edited segment that aired on “Cops.”
You can listen or subscribe to “Running from COPS” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and iHeartRadio. New episodes are released on Tuesdays.