Cops Behaving Badly

Sheriff arrests a woman who leaves traffic stop, but some say he went too far.

May 3, 2007 — -- A Tampa, Fla., police officer who chased down a woman trying to reach her sick father is being criticized for abusing his authority during a simple traffic stop.

Deputy Sheriff Kevin Stabins said he clocked Melissa Langston going 63 miles per hour in a 35 mile per hour zone. Her destination was the hospital where her father was being treated for a heart attack.

On a police videotape of the incident, Langston can be seen saying to Stabins, "I'm in a big hurry. My father's having a heart attack. Can I please get there?"

Unmoved by her argument, Stabins decided to check her driver's license. When he did, Langston drove off.

She reportedly told investigators she wanted to check the hospital parking lot to make sure her father's car was there. As the officer approached a second time, Langston's car appeared to Stabins to pull away again.

"That was not smart… Out of the car," Stabins said. "Now you're going to jail… Now you're not going to see him because you're going to jail."

The videotape, taken from a dashboard camera in Stabins' police car, shows Langston protesting throughout the arrest.

To some observers, Langston broke a cardinal rule of how to behave when stopped by the police. She didn't stay calm and she didn't stay put.

But others say the deputy overreacted.

"He just lost it," former Sheriff's Cpt. Rod Reiter said. "He's a good deputy, but he just lost his temper you know this time, but he's wrong for it."

The deputy told his side to the department's internal affairs.

"I really didn't believe her story," he said in a video interview with the internal affairs department.

Stabins was suspended for five days. All charges against Langston were dropped. Her father is recovering from his heart attack.