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Law Enforcement expert, ACLU weigh in on Windsor traffic stop

Posted at 12:07 AM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 12:37:48-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Law enforcement experts weighed in on a now viral traffic stop involving Windsor Police and an Army lieutenant that they said went south quickly due to poor communication.

In December of 2020, 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario was driving on Route 460 through the tiny town of Windsor, where he was “blue-lighted” -- allegedly for not having a visible rear license plate.

In documents revealed in a subsequent lawsuit, the officers involved had noted it as a high-risk stop, due to the vehicle’s tinted windows.

Slowing down to about 18 mph for about a mile, Nazario drove to a well-lit gas station, and that's where the two Windsor officers first made contact with the soldier.

"If you're telling someone to put their hands up and turn off the car, well, they can't do both,” said Miles Turner with Law Enforcement Consulting, LLC. “That's why we teach them, ‘right hand out, left hand grab keys, and see the keys then throw them on the ground.’"

Turner said that was the officers first mistake, before their sarcastic communication made the situation worse.

"I've had people tell me that ‘I'm scared to get out of the car,’” Turner said. “’Well, there's nothing to be scared of. I just want to get you back to where we don't have to shout,’ is far easier to take than, ‘well, you should be,’ Of course the guy is scared."

Officers pointed guns at, pepper sprayed and then pushed Nazario to the ground after pulling him from his SUV.

In a statement Sunday, town officials said an internal investigation was opened at the time of the use of force and determined that department policy wasn't followed. Officials confirmed that one of the officers involved, Officer Joe Gutierrez, had been fired.

Body camera video shows the officer pepper spraying Nazario, before he and his partner cuff Nazario outside his SUV.

"A police officer can't lose their license to police unless they're convicted of a crime,” said Claire Gastanaga from Virginia's ACLU. She said firing the officer isn't enough punishment.

"This officer that got fired can go down the road and get another job tomorrow under the current law,” said Gastanaga. “I mean, the General Assembly did pass a new law that says misconduct could mean losing your license going forward, but that doesn't kick in until regulations are written that put the standards in place."

Gastanaga said small towns like Windsor are engaged in what's called "policing for profit." That means they use traffic tickets to provide a revenue stream.

Turner disputes that, saying a community typically asks for enforcement in those areas because of speeding and other public safety concerns.