Sheriff suspends deputy who seized biker's camera

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

WFAA

Posted on September 13, 2012 at 7:09 AM

DALLAS — The Dallas County Sheriff's Department has issued a 38-day suspension to a deputy who stopped a motorcycle rider without cause and seized his helmet camera.

The raw video of the Memorial Day weekend arrest by Deputy James Westbrook has been seen by almost half a million people around the world on YouTube.

The suspension — which Westbrook can appeal — amounts to almost two months off without pay.

“I think we should applaud the agency," said Dr. Robert Taylor, a criminal justice expert at the University of Texas at Dallas. "There were days in American law enforcement when nothing would've happened. And those weren't too far off."

However, Taylor said other departments would have surely fired Westbrook.

Westbrook made the arrest on Memorial Day weekend, when local law enforcement departments were on high alert. They wanted to prohibit reckless behavior by motorcycle riders on the anniversary of a biker event where they shut down North Central Expressway in Dallas and sprayed graffiti on the road.

During his arrest of biker Chris Moore, Westbrook said: "The reason you're being pulled over is because I'm gonna take your camera and we're gonna use it as evidence of in the crimes that have been committed by other bikers."

It is not illegal to wear a camera on your helmet. And experts say Westbrook’s reason did not constitute probable cause to make a traffic stop.

But what bothers Taylor more than Westbrook's traffic stop is the deputy's verbal outbursts and how he slammed the squad car door on the biker's leg.

"Those are the kinds of things that smack of all the ugly things we see in law enforcement,” Taylor said.

Hunter Biederman, Moore's lawyer, said Westbrook should have been fired. "I think they're sending the message that what he did was okay,” Biederman said.

He is prepared to take this to trial, a rare step for a small offense. But Biederman said it was necessary after his client was arrested, mistreated, and then held in the Dallas County Jail.

"I don't think this person should be out patrolling our streets. I don't that type of person should be stopping and arresting our citizens,” he said.

Prior to responding to the biker situation, Westbrook had arrested a drunk driver. Eight of Westbrook's 38 suspension days were related to him leaving his prisoner at the jail without booking him in while he went out on the biker call.

Deputy Westbrook declined to comment on the case to News 8. He has not served the suspension yet and can still appeal.

E-mail dschechter@wfaa.com


Watch Chris Moore's unedited helmet cam video:

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