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Walk The Line: Does New DUI-Stop Video Show an Impaired Driver or Another Example of Police Bullying?

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the legal system is how susceptible it can be to interpretation. Despite being constructed of strict language many would find intimidating and at times inaccessible, the law must also be left open so that certain personnel within the legal system can determine whether situations in question are within the acceptable confines of society. Life, to many, is a gray-shaded phenomenon that many people try to shove into black-and-white judgments. And when social critics allow for the fallibility of those in authority, sometimes what we’re told to be the truth is really nothing more than opinion at best.

Facing several past allegations of corruption, including a viral video that put Rutherford County on the map for less-than-favorable reasons, the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office has had yet another video surface that calls into question its practices. Below is the feed from the dashboard camera of an officer who appears to be Rutherford County Sheriff’s Officer A.J. Ross, whom many remember from the 4th of July DUI checkpoint video.

The description of the video reads as follows:

“In this video obtained exclusively by Rutherford Beacon on 1/22/14, Rutherford County (TN) Sheriff’s Deputy A.J. Ross initiates a traffic stop on 3/17/13 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Ross is well known for his combative behavior when interacting with the public; a video recorded on July 4, 2013 shows him yelling and screaming at an innocent motorist at a checkpoint. Ross was previously fired from RCSO after getting into a crash off-duty, and lying to responding officers about having insurance. Ross was re-hired under current Sheriff Robert Arnold.

In the video, Ross’ tone of voice is aggressive with the driver, who appears to be of college age. Ross talks over the driver and accuses him of being intoxicated, which he disputes. Ross performs a lengthy horizontal gaze nystagmus test on the driver, which suggests he was struggling to find signs of impairment. The driver spoke clearly and was not slurring his words.

While Ross continues to talk down to and berate the driver, he orders the driver to perform a field sobriety test. During all portions of the test, the driver is steady on his feet and appears to easily pass all tests. Nonetheless, Ross places the driver under arrest for Driving Under the Influence.

It is worth acknowledging that the driver did not immediately come to a stop because he wanted to be within view of his house, presumably so that he would have witnesses. This is a common tactic of those concerned about widespread police abuse; it was clear the driver had no intent to flee. Rutherford Beacon is working to verify if the driver was convicted of DUI.

(Rutherford Beacon is a coalition of citizens working to expose abusive law enforcement tactics and government corruption in Rutherford County, Tennessee.) ”

Upon watching the video, it is clear that there are details that aren’t answered. Aside from the removed identity of the stopped driver, it’s tough to truly judge whether or not the driver was in fact driving under the influence. What is clear, however, is that the officer seems to be rude on a level that is not only needless, but potentially intimidating. Being pulled over by an officer of the law is stressful enough, so what happens when an officer’s attitude goes from firm and professional to unnecessarily confrontational, hinging on bullying? This kind of activity can not only appear as a blemish on the whole department and lower the overall trust of the community, but creates a “level of question” about the specific case or cases in which the officer, and his aggressive behavior, are involved.

What’s more important,  if the driver in the video is was in fact too scared to perform the field sobriety to the best of his ability, a potentially innocent driver has failed the test because of circumstances beyond his control, which could cause irreparable damage.

What are your thoughts on the video? Join the discussion and comment below.

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About the Author

I’m a contributing writer for the Murfreesboro Pulse. I’m also a filmmaker and a founding member of the MTSU Film Guild. My interests include screenwriting, producing, coffee, beer and philosophy. I’m a huge fan of films, particularly horror, action, science fiction and crime.

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6 Comments

  • Chip Peruzzi

    Seems to me that the officer A.J. Ross was quite unprofessional. Not sure he was wrong to make an arrest, but his attitude makes me question his actions and his competence as a police officer.

    I’m not convinced that the suspect was impaired in any way. I hope they did a blood test or something else to confirm. Other wise I think it should be thrown out.He seemed to do very well with every thing that was asked of him.

  • Tori

    I found this to be very disturbing. From the vantage point of the dashcam video, I didn’t see that the suspect appeared impaired. This officer is a bully who doesn’t seem to realize that he is a public servant, not a public overlord. I feel that the disrespect that officer displays towards citizens comes from the top down. I don’t recall ever seeing this type of behavior during the terms of Truman Jones or Craig Snell. This is shameful and I hope that citizens will take note and rectify the mistake that was made in the last election.

  • Vinnie

    Questions I have for the author of the article 1. what is your training in Standardized Field Sobriety and it being administered or evaluated? 2 Comments about a previously released video that was edited for content to show a point of view and not the total event. 3 Just an FYI Blood was drawn and he came back at nearly twice the legal limit of .15 BAC and accepted a plea for reckless endangerment. 4 Who pulls off a well lit road to a dark road to stop? It would raise my concern for my safety if I were Deputy Ross.

    So Thank you Deputy Ross for protecting this community from someone that has total disregard for the rest of us.

  • Tori

    Vinnie, Even if the driver was drunk, it does not give this officer the right to speak in the disrespectful way that he did. We are all innocent until proven guilty and the officer should be the first to know that.

  • John

    Public servant means to serve all the public, not to placate and baby someone drinking and driving. Deputy Ross does not have to be warm and fuzzy to everyone he encounters, but has to protect the public from drunks. The new trend of over evaluating every traffic stop and police action is rediculous. This kid did something to gain the attention of law enforcement, and the BAC validated Ross arrest of him. It appears that those who complain are pushing to have ineffective policing by having law enforcement be smiley, happy people that dont harrass poor drunks and law breakers. Interaction with the police is not going to be nice if you are breaking the law. Grow up and dont break the law. If this kid had harmed himself or gotten killed in a wreck, there would have been a vigil, and moaning and groaning about him being a good kid, what a tragedy, and so on. Instead he was saved from himself, and possibly saved someone from being hurt by him. Almost twice the legal limit, but the concern is if his little feelings were hurt because the mean police were’nt nice to him. Grow up. Be responsible.

  • John

    Tori,
    I will agree that Snell was a good man,but during Jones’ watch a Detective killed a child when returning from seeing his mistress, and Jones rehired him despite public outcry. Candidate Kennedy was a bully, cost the county money in a law suit, and is suing again after losing- plus supports his drug dealing son. Candidate Mayercik is a womanizer who lied and tampered with evidence. Candidate Tramel was fired for accusing women he worked with of having affairs. So you compare that to a Deputy not being sweet to a drunk? Good Grief.

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