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Stops, Lies and Videotape: That P.G. Traffic Stop

On the one hand, Rafael A. Rodriguez didn't get out of his car when the police officers asked him to.

On the other hand, he didn't look very threatening.

On the other hand, he was clearly uncooperative.

On the other, other hand, one cop kept saying "I can care less," rather than "I couldn't care less."

On the main hand, however, what apparently was a $50 offense -- driving with blue lights -- turned into another embarrassment for the Prince George's County police, as two officers were caught on tape pepper-spraying and beating Rodriguez.

I've watched the tape a few times and I don't have much sympathy for anyone on it. It appears that Rodriguez won't sign the citation officers John Wynkoop and Scott Wilson give him.

Then, when they ask him to step out of the car, he refuses. He won't sit down when they tell him to, either. In fact, he reminded me of a recalcitrant child, pushing things to the limit.

In a perfect world, the police officers would have been able to defuse the situation peacefully, but the pepper spray came out, some got in one officer's eyes and that probably set the stage for the beat down that followed. By this time Rodriguez was sitting down. Too little, too late, you might say.

Did the officers feel threatened by Rodriguez, or were they just ticked off at him for dragging his feet at every request/demand they made?

"They're going to kill me!" Rodriguez shouted, which, given the history of the PG police department, is not an unreasonable fear. But I can't shake the feeling that he brought a lot of this on himself for being a mouthy little twerp.

On the other hand, mouthy little twerps shouldn't get beat up just for being mouthy little twerps. I want our cops to have a sense of scale, to know when to escalate and when to hold back. On the other hand, can failure to escalate end up getting you killed?

Prosecutors must have thought the videotape seriously compromised their case, since they dropped their charges against Rodriguez. And now the officers are under investigation. What I'd really like to see, though, is a videotape that shows how the situation could have been handled, should have been handled.

By John Kelly  |  March 4, 2009; 9:01 AM ET
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Next: McGruff: Taking It on the Chin


Cops always abuse latin people. They are helpless and have no where to turn and the cops know this. The last place an abused Latino wants to go is to a police station to report police brutality, they just kinda accept it as a Latinos way of life in America.

Posted by: devilsadvoc8 | March 4, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Ok, I watched this 3 times. I can see NOTHING that these police officers did wrong except, maybe, they were not physically forceful enough. In the first 90 seconds these officers gave the motorist no less than 25 commands, none of which he obeyed.

The motorist then resisted arrest and at that point became a criminal and a threat. His actions directly initiated the confrontation. Police officers, for the safety of the public and their own safety, MUST neutralize such threats.

In my opinion the suspension of these two officers is unwarranted unless it is the policy of their department that criminals and public threats are to be ignored. Their suspension sends the wrong message to the wrong people.

Traffic stops are high on the list of the most dangerous things that a police officer does. A uncooperative criminal in a car with potential access to a weapon (gun, knife, screwdriver, baseball bat, etc.) must be dealt with forcefully.

The fact that under these circumstances they did not shoot this guy, and it appears that they never even drew their weapons, speaks volumes about their training and their desire to end this confrontation without undo injury to anyone.

Commendations all around.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 10:24 AM | Report abuse

If Mr. Rodriguez wouldn't have had illegal blue-tinted lights on his car in the first place, he wouldn't have gotten pulled over. And failure to get out of the car when told to is only asking for trouble.

Posted by: justhere | March 4, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and John, in case it was not fully apparent in my previous post, you are full of carp.

To the first poster; all he had to do was sign the citation and leave. Once he started acting like a criminal threat the outcome was clear. The motorist is the one that set the entire tone of this episode.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Success as a police officer is not having to pepper spray and beat a motorist. They didn't handle the situation well. I've met cops like that who seem eager to show you how much authority they have and try to goad you into overreacting.

HOWEVER, at the end of the day, the motorist is primarily to blame for what happened to him. He could have chosen to obey at any point and ended the confrontation.

Posted by: InTheMiddle | March 4, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

InTheMiddle - Just what do you propose that they do? They asked him to sign the citation, he refused. They told him to turn over the keys, he refused. They told him to get out of the car, he refused. They told him to get on the ground, he refused. Twenty five commands, that I could hear, in 90 seconds.

So tell us, what were they suppose to do? Oh, and you have 60 seconds to figure it out.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

<>mouthy little twerps shouldn't get beat up just for being mouthy little twerps.

Oh, I dunno. If it happens on the playground in grade school it can cure the mouthy twerp of mouthyness.

Posted by: wiredog | March 4, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Ding! In your first assignment as a police officer in a traffic stop, you have failed InTheMiddle. The motorist has pulled a gun and shot you in the face. You are dead.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Here in the AMERICA I grew up in, you have respect for the law. The most the officers would have given Mr Rodrigeuz is a fix-it ticket. Mr Rodrigeuz whould have then either fixed the problem, or taken it to a judge, who decides right or wrong.

I don't wish to get into a battle of who is right & wrong in this video. . . all 3 people in the video could have handled the situation differently, with a positive outcome for everybody.

It also appears that mr Rodrigeuz attended the same driving school as the lady in Manassas Va a few weeks back. When these Immigrants come to DC & America & take their driving tests, they should learn, that the side of the road is NOT the place to argue with a police officer, who is doing their duty to enforce the traffic laws & to keep the streets safe for everybody. . even in PG County.

NOTE to all people getting pulled over. . SIGN THE FIX-IT TICKET, hire a lawyer & fight it in court.

If the police REALLY wanted to tell Mr Rodrigeuz his tail lights were illegal, they should have used their baton to bust the taillights out right then & there. Fix your lights, Mr Rodrigeuz. . they are not working at all. PROBLEM SOLVED! =)

Posted by: Robbnitafl | March 4, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse


Posted by: nivla | March 4, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Fascinating. A perfectly rational article by John Kelly followed by a completely irrational and almost rabid comment board.

Posted by: mwcob | March 4, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse

First off the officers as usual with PGCP overeacted, just give him the ticket, if you ran his tag number and his liscense and there were no violations then give him his citation and let the courts handle it.Mr Rodriguez should have shut his mouth taken his ticket and left, that being said the officers should not have let it escalate into them being suspended the officers should have been smarter.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 4, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

What did the officers do wrong? This guy breaks the law, refused to obey the commands of a police officer, and then resists arrest! Seems to me he got what he deserved. This is not racism, If he would have done what he was told, then he would have been on his way. The were being nice for not locking him up for the blue lights in the first place. What if this guy used his blue lights to stop some female and then raped and killed her! PGPD would have been castrated for that as well. I think they should have really beat the stuffing out of him and then broadcast it on the nightly news with the warning, this is what happens when you break the law!

Posted by: CrimsonTide1 | March 4, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

When did it become a law that you must sign a ticket? He didn't need to get out of the car if he didn't want to sign the ticket. And his light that were shown on the local news stations were not as blue as police lights, like the officer claimed. Look local police try to find a minor violation to pull you over for and hope for a bigger score after. Now the Latino guy heavy spanish speaking and refusal to get out after told several times, led to the grabbing out of the car, but the officer partner who wildly was spraying the pepper spray led to the real beatdown. Look everyone knows that you don't play with PG County police, you will either get a serious "beatdown" or worse shot between the eyes.

Posted by: ENJOYA | March 4, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

After reading everyone's posts about this matter, I will say, that everyone that said if the driver obeyed the commands, none of this would have happened. So I suppose the driver thought, if I refuse to sign the ticket and if I argue with officers about the stop, they will give up and simply drive away and forget about the violation? Also, what country is Mr Rodriguez from? In that country, I would be willing to bet that this would be a lot worse for him! So based on that, I assume that these hispanic people come here to the USA knowing that they can push things like this to the extreme, and sue the police afterwards. This is a luxury that they do not have in their country and something they did not learn from their culture in Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia, et cetera! They learn that from their relatives when they arrive here in our country! Read my words, SEND THESE HISPANICS BACK TO THEIR COUNTRY!

Posted by: Black101 | March 4, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Just another wetb@ck who thinks the laws don't apply to them. SHIP HIS AZZ BACK HOME!!!

Posted by: islandhopper24 | March 4, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Signing a ticket is NOT an admission of guilt. . . its either a promise to pay the fine, fix the equipment problem, or appear before a judge. All "properly licensed operators" of motor vehicles know this & also know that the side of the road is NOT the place to argue your case.

Posted by: Robbnitafl | March 4, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Mr or Mrs DLD:

I could not care less about what that citizen was doing to provoke those officers. Remember Police are allowed to use Justifiable force, not rain blows till those officers are bored. And yeah that smart mouth didnt help that motorist.

Now do us all a favor and hang out at "Soldier of Fortune" or "True Detective" chat rooms. Your 'Johnny Law' stench is quite gagging.

Posted by: busdriver420 | March 4, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Actually, as someone who has seen a traffic citation, you can read where you sign that signing the citation is not an addmission of guilt. But what it continues to say is that failure to sign the citation can lead to your arrest.

Posted by: PBJscrap | March 4, 2009 2:18 PM | Report abuse

hmmm. i didn't even know those ugly blue lights were illegal.

Posted by: my2cents8 | March 4, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't the cops just put the handcuffs on him an arrest him?

Posted by: reneecoleman | March 4, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

why didn't the cops just arrest him and put the handcuffs on him?

Posted by: reneecoleman | March 4, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

"Oh, and John, in case it was not fully apparent in my previous post, you are full of carp."

As opposed to being full of tuna?

Posted by: opinionatedreader | March 4, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

"As opposed to being full of tuna?"

The filters applied to these blogs will often delete posts with certain words, just for the halibut.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

hold on....i just watched again.....

first, didn't that seem like a dangerous place to stop? they kept jumping into oncoming traffic whenever they crossed the median.

now i can see where the cops became agitated in the beginning because the suspect started to pluck my nerves after the first minute and a half!

but then......

2:26 suspect begged for the ticket because he didn't want to go to jail.

2:28 cop1 said sit down i will give you a ticket and the suspect did just that. cop2 was no where to be seen. was he on his cellphone or something?????

2:35 the suspect sat peacefully and continued to talk with cop1. PEACEFULLY this time. still no cop2.

3:29 almost a full minute later cop2 pops out of no where screaming (and actually startled the suspect because it was seemingly unexpected) "put your hands behind your back". the suspect sort of moved but seemed to be stunned. the cop pounced on him as if the scuffle never ended and had intensified. did someone use a mental pause button or something?

3:29 is where, for me, this case took a wrong turn for the police.

Posted by: my2cents8 | March 4, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't know what the big deal is with this video. The cops gave the guy EVERY opportunity to take the easy way out, and he refused. REPEATEDLY. So they tried to escalate things and use physical force to arrest him when he wouldn't sign the ticket (which does make one liable for immediate arrest) or comply with verbal commands, and it didn't work, either. Then they tried OC (pepper) spray, and THAT failed.

So finally, after all else, they used their batons. Sure, there was anger on the officers' part, but not without good reason. How long are the police supposed to keep their cool when they're being disobeyed by someone who they're trying to arrest and who should be in handcuffs?

The fact that the officers allegedly mocked the driver's accent and the fact that one of them had been to sensitivity training wouldn't count in a court of law, and it shouldn't count in a court of public opinion, either.

I don't know why the prosecutor didn't pursue the case, and I don't understand why there's going to be a major investigation. Tell the two officers to keep their tempers under control and put notes in their files, send the officers back to class on how to restrain suspects, give the driver the ticket he deserves, and get on with it.

This is NOT a Rodney King replay.

Posted by: jfw9 | March 4, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I agree everyone in this video is stupid to the first degree.But aren't our Police suppose to have a little more common sense then these two keystone cops.My God I would have told the guy don't sign,lets go to jail.

Posted by: bigman5 | March 4, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I think a lot of you are missing the main issue why the police officers got suspended. It is not all about the beating of Rodriguez, but the fact that they were dishonest. They said that Rodriguez punched them and assaulted them when they tried to get him out of the car. Yes, Rodriguez was mouthy and resisted, but when the police officer lie and charge a defendant with something they didn't do, action should be taken. So to those who ask the question what the officers did wrong. the answer is dishonesty.

Posted by: em2000 | March 4, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

This driver hasn't learned how to handle cops in the US.

You just say Yes Sir! Yes Sir! Yes Sir!

Then when they pepper spray you, you get a lawyer.

Posted by: rtreff | March 4, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

That was pretty GD funny!! That's why I never became a cop. I would have been so annoyed with this jackass that I would've just tasered him while he was sitting in the car being an ass. Arguing is why they have the courts. You won't win on the streets against cops. Dummy.

Posted by: case50 | March 4, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

If cops really gave this guy "25 commands in 90 seconds" (I wasn't counting), no wonder the situation escalated out of control. There's no need for that kind of arrogance; that's going get anyone's hackles up, even someone who didn't start out with the intention of being a PITA.

Let's not forget that the cops have a professional responsibility to diffuse explosive situations. They failed, independently of whether or not perp deserved what he got.

Posted by: burke2 | March 4, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Which area police departments do NOT have the video cameras?

Specifically, I would like to know about Fairfax County and Fairfax City.

Posted by: jbartelloni | March 4, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: la_chica1980 | March 4, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Interesting comments, have people read the officers report about what Rodriguez did to them? They claim he punched one of the officers in the stomach as soon as he stepped out of the car. Since the video shows that was clearly a lie it can certainly be said the officers did something wrong. I don't like the idea that they can just make up charges as serious as assulting an officer just because you are talking back or getting on their nerves.

Posted by: Dremit97 | March 4, 2009 3:59 PM | Report abuse

After viewing the tape, Mr. Rodriguez could have just signed the ticket and been on his way...When the police give you a command, you do it! We cannot have people just doing what they want to do when given police instruction by officers...

Posted by: Angryman | March 4, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow, burke2. You really don't understand the dynamics of a traffic stop, do you? Police are trained to repeat their commands to ensure that the subject understands them and is made aware that, yes, he still wants you to do this. The police in this case did not start repeating the command until Mr. Rodriguez refused their first and subsequent commands. People like Mr. Rodriquez are why cops do things the way they do (I am referring to going by the book here.) Arrogance? Nope, proper police procedure, although possibly not well applied.

"Let's not forget that the cops have a professional responsibility to diffuse explosive situations." Well, just what would you have them do differently? I really want to know.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

The comments bringing race into this just screams ignorance because there are plenty of videos of alleged police brutality on white drunk middle aged women, angry rednecks, and affluent college kids. No matter what color you are or what accent you have when a cop tells you to do something and you don't he's not going to say "well ok then" and walk away.
When has arguing with, resisting, or running from cops EVER worked out in somebody's favor? I have yet to see a video of someone claiming police brutality who was cooperating and doing what they are told to do. Cops put their safety on the line every single day and they err on the side of caution, I don't blame them. This guy began to resist and trying to run so for all they new he was high on drugs and/or armed and their safety was in danger. Americans have the right to fight citations they disagree with in court, they do not have the right to verbally or physically attack an officer of the law who is doing his job. Getting aggressive with a cop will never end well, you're going to get tased/sprayed/beaten or thrown in jail so if you think you were wrongly ticketed keep your mouth shut, respect their authority, and take it to court.

Posted by: eeskatyel | March 4, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I love how people commenting are so intensely racist and simple-minded. All the wetback comments, the fact that the guy was a foreigner, etc., gives you all free reign to make some of the stupidest comments in the world. Everyone in the United States are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Ask yourself why your ancestors left their homes. Read up on what they went through and then think about how appropriate your comments are. This is sickening. No one deserves to go through this, violence is never the answer. We, Americans, want to bring justice to the rest of the world, yet we can't even come to terms with ourselves.

Posted by: ConcernedInvestor | March 4, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

em2000 - Actually I am in agreement with you. If the officers lied on their report, that is just wrong. I don't see a punch thrown in the first few seconds of his exiting his car but at least half of the 6 minute tape shows absolutely nothing. So, was a punch thrown off-camera? I don't know and neither do you.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

ConcernedInvestor - We can all see that you know simple-minded.


Posted by: DLDx | March 4, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

DLDx, what would I have them do differently? Speak to the motorist like a human being instead of barking orders. Act like you're serving the public instead acting like god almighty.

Not really so difficult.

The situation deteriorates when the cop barks out "Listen to me!" and then follows that up with "I could care less...".

There's just no need for that.

Note that I'm not defending the driver's action, nor do I particularly feel sorry for him. But it's not his responsibility to diffuse the situation. It is cop's responsibility to do so, and they did the opposite; escalating the confrontation for no other reason than that some uppity citizen dared to talk back to them. That's arrogance.

Posted by: burke2 | March 4, 2009 5:08 PM | Report abuse

John Kelly -

How was he clearly uncooperative?Uncooperative to what?

You don't have much sympathy for anyone on the tape?

John're a prejudiced bastard. Rafael Rodriquez was not only beaten up but falsely charged with assaulting two officers. If it weren't for the tape, he might have gone to prison for a crime he did not commit. How about you get charged for a crime you didn't commit?

Pardon my words, but it must be your prejudiced gringo mind that can't see the horrific injustice that was done here. You've got quite a nerve to write what you did. Your words go right along with the arrogant brutality of those 2 white officers against this Latino. You don't have the slighest idea what being discriminated against feels like...consider yourself lucky to be white and fortune to have life spoon fed to you. And just like rich kids who grow up to be a bunch of, John Kelly, have grown up to be a white brat who can't see beyond your gringo lense. Espero que te pudras en el infierno.

Posted by: OrgulloLatino | March 4, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

All the racist remarks I read demonstrate this country has not changed. We're still made up of sick minded racists. I recommend serious phsychiatric therapy and medication for your dysfunction. You people make me sick. I hope you all rot in hell.

How about some sense idiots, we've just voted for an AfricanAmerican president after decades of horrific discrimination against blacks. And here we go again, this time against Latinos. Perhaps 100 years later your white kids or grandkids will pick another race to do the same. You ignorant bastards...this country hasn't changed.

Posted by: OrgulloLatino | March 4, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse


Only good PG cop is a dead one. And excuse me signing the ticket is basically a admission of guilt because when you get to court the deck is stacked against you unless you can afford a shyster who bills at $500 a hour. Judges believe the pig especially if defendant is a minority. Its all about the revenue in traffic court and not guilt or innocence.

So DLD do you get your jollies harassing citizens when you strap on your strap on and pin on your badge and become DLD Macy's loss prevention officer? You really should stop peeping in little girls dressing rooms hoss!

I argued a ticket with a VA state trooper.
Refused to sign etc and he finally gave up etc. So it does happen, however the trooper was black and I was white boy driving a bimmer. Trooper had an attitude
shame this stop led to his new career as a greeter at Wal Mart since he is no longer a VA state employee.

Posted by: sheepherder | March 5, 2009 7:36 AM | Report abuse

The guy was just plain stupid and escalated the situation by simply refusing to obey the orders of the police. Ok fine he had the right to not sign the citation, but refusing to sign the citation means that he would have to submit to arrest. He was so busy mouthing off to the officers and literally disregarding their orders that he had no defense for what happened after he refused to sign the citation.

And I say this as no big fan of the Riverdale police. The subject seeme to think that he was in some kind of negotiation with them. He wasn't. He's lucky that he didn't get his head caved in or get an arm or leg broken.

Having said that he clearly was too much for these guys to handle and they should have called for back up the moment the pepperspray came out. If they had had 3 or 4 more officers there, they would have quite rightfully beaten the crap out of this guy, he'd be in the hospital with a broken face, the Latino organizations would be all up in arms and this tape would have been all the vindication that the police needed. It's plain and simple. The police are not there to negotiate with drivers. They are there to maintain order on the roads, in the interest of public safety. This guy clearly had no respect for the law. I don't think that beating it into him was the answer, but these officers clearly did not use the level of force that they would have been justified in using to subdue this suspect. If they should be faulted for *anything* it is for pepper-spraying each other and letting this guy walk around on the street without cuffs on. But I could see that when the one officer was incapacitated the other one backed off and was ready to draw on him. I can't fault a thing that they did after that. If the guy had been cuffed and submissive and they continued to beat on him that would be a different story. That clearly is not what happened here, at least as far as I could see.

Posted by: dubya19391 | March 6, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

"but then......

2:26 suspect begged for the ticket because he didn't want to go to jail.

2:28 cop1 said sit down i will give you a ticket and the suspect did just that. cop2 was no where to be seen. was he on his cellphone or something?????"

The cop said that just to get the suspect to do something other than walk around and/or struggle with him alone while his partner was incapacitated from the pepper-spray in his eyes. If you watched him at that point he stepped back from the suspect and put his hand on his gun and was ready to shoot the guy He knew that he couldn't handle him by himself but the guy couldn't be allowed to leave the scene.

Aside from the fact that this guy was clearly border line crazy who the hell knows what he's done. What he's capable of doing (look, he's plain and simply resisting arrest). What weapons he had in the car. You just don't know. He's lucky that he didn't get shot right then and there. But if he was willing to at least sit down then Officer B had the situation under at least some control.

Officer A wasn't having any of that. He wasn't about to negotiate with this guy to get him just to sit down and be calm for a moment. And as soon as his eyes cleared they went back at him and the issue became VERY clear: he simply wasn't going to submit to arrest. Once he realized that the officers were quite serious about arresting him, THEN he wanted the ticket back so he could sign it. But that opportunity was long gone by then. It became clear that this guys' problem is that *he* wanted to control the situation and he was willing to do anything short of fighting the officers to achieve that. But resisting arrest is also a crime. His opportunity to resolve this situation peacefully was to sign the ticket and drive off and he pissed all over that.

Posted by: dubya19391 | March 6, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting to see how an article like this brings out all the BIGOTS AND RACISTS !

PLEASE NOTE ONE THING - "Prosecutors must have thought the videotape seriously compromised their case, since they dropped their charges against Rodriguez. And now the officers are under investigation."

Case over.

The cops should be charged and convicted. You give these morons a gun and a badge, and they think the own the world. Seen it too many times, and then they lie on the stand, plant "evidence", and on and on. Cops are basically the problem in many of the cases I have ever seen.


Posted by: swanieaz | March 9, 2009 1:33 AM | Report abuse

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