Clayton, GA -- As TFTP has consistently reported, if 300 cops remain silent as one bad cop abuses his authority and harms others, all 300 of those cops become bad cops. Unfortunately, silence -- otherwise known as the blue code of silence -- is the norm and good cops stopping bad ones is the exception.
The reason good cops are afraid to call out the bad ones is because crossing this thin blue line will most likely end their careers, or worse. Clayton police officer Ryan Hamilton was with the department for 15 years and being a good cop ended that career.
Last year, Hamilton heard about one of his fellow officers abusing a 73-year-old man on video. At the time, Hamilton was the assistant police chief so he pulled the dash camera video to review it. It shocked him.
“Never seen that kind of treatment of someone,” he said.
The video showed Sgt. Travis Gibson abusing a confused elderly man with dementia because he was so confused he didn't know how to unbuckle his seat belt.
“Pull over dumb ass!” Gibson yelled from his cruiser at the elderly man.
Gibson suspected the driver, 73-year-old Alton Owens, of being under the influence and pulled him over after a brief low-speed chase. As the video shows, Owens is confused and unable to get his seat belt off.
Gibson then claimed Owens tried to grab his vest -- a move which was likely entirely innocent and done in a moment of confusion -- but that led to the officer tasering the elderly man. He then punched Owens multiple times in the head and arrested him for suspicion of DUI.
After Hamilton watched the video, he had to do something about Gibson's excessive force.
“The guy was 73 years old,” said Hamilton. “He could have been somebody’s grandpa, father, anybody. Nobody deserves to be treated like that.”
Indeed, he was.
Hamilton brought the video to Clayton police chief Andy Strait and Strait, Hamilton's personal friend, did nothing about it. Instead of taking action against Gibson for the clear violation of rights on the video, Strait justified it.
“It’s never pretty when you have to make an arrest,” Strait told the FOX 5 I-Team.
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After the chief brushed him off, Hamilton decided to take matters into his own hands.
“You gotta do what’s right,” Hamilton said. “And I did what’s right.”
So, Hamilton took out his phone and recorded about 20 seconds of the dash cam video and sent it to his fiancee who works for the Rabun County District Attorney -- a move that would cost him his job.
When they received the video, prosecutors already had two other excessive force cases on their plate involving Gibson.
As FOX 5 reports:
Two weeks after the low-speed chase, Gibson responded to a call of a jewelry store owner threatening people with a knife.
The owner was unarmed when Gibson approached. When he wouldn’t quiet down, Gibson grabbed him and took him to the ground.
“You’re not going to stand here and yell in my face!” Gibson yelled.
And in April, Gibson encountered a woman who had refused to get out of someone’s car. She was standing by the car when he arrived. When she wouldn’t back up, he grabbed her too.
Despite Gibson's multiple acts of excessive force, Gibson was not fired and instead was allowed to resign.
During the same time, the video Hamilton had sent to his fiancee had somehow made it to the family of the elderly man.
Owens' daughter, Sherry Taylor, said she was furious after watching Gibson abuse her father, so she shared the video with family.
In October, Strait heard about the video and confronted his assistant chief. Hamilton admitted he was the source but not the one who sent it to Taylor.
As FOX 5 reports, it made no difference. To the chief, his longtime assistant had violated policy. On Oct. 15, Strait asked Hamilton for his resignation.
“It was just a broken trust there that couldn’t be repaired,” he said. “I worked with Ryan for so long. He and I were friends. It really bothered me. It still does. It tears me up because Ryan and I had been through a lot together. That really bothers me. But in this case, I was left with no choice.”
Sadly, Hamilton says he is done with his career in law enforcement and the police force will now be short a good cop. As for the bad cop who savagely beat an elderly man with dementia, he still works part-time for the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office and the Hiawassee Police Department.
Showing just how good of a cop he was, Hamilton has no regrets about what he did because it was the right thing to do.