Earl Mack, a 40-year law enforcement veteran, reflects on what should happen next for the two officers involved and reacts to comments from the Toledo City Council.
TOLEDO, Ohio — A violent New Year’s Eve traffic stop between two Toledo police officers and two women continues to reflect on the interactions between law enforcement and community members.
The incident in question led to an internal affairs investigation and the suspension of two officers: Adam Hobbs, suspended for 20 days, 10 without pay; and Ashlyn Plough, suspended for one day with pay.
Officers’ Behavior During Traffic Stops, Suspensions They Received, and Community Fears of Physical Harm During Police Interactions passionate responses from Toledo City Council members on Tuesday.
Dashcam and dash-cam video of the stop showed Plough and Hobbs, both white, using strong physical force while detaining two women, both black, the officers pulled over and charged with reckless driving.
The incident also attracted the attention of former policeman Earl Mack, the president Toledo Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Cluba local organization that preserves the legacy of 19th century regiments of black US soldiers.
Before joining the group, Mack was a 40-year veteran of law enforcement. He said nothing he saw on the video of the stop suggested proper behavior by the officers.
“We always frown on officers who just walk up to the car and pull them out of the car because that citizen is angry and doesn’t know what’s going on,” Mack said.
He said that after watching footage of the incident, he hopes the mental health of these officers is taken seriously, saying self-policing law enforcement officers never get off the hook like Hobbs and Plough did.
“I would recommend some training to keep your emotions in check,” Mack said. “These officers go through a lot every day, day after day. They see all kinds of things, and they see things that can affect them and their personal lives. Therefore, these trainings should include such things and have a psychological assessment.’
“If it had been two young white women, this wouldn’t have happened,” Councilwoman Venice Williams, who is black, said during Tuesday’s meeting.
But Mack, who is also black, said the incident was not racially motivated.
“Not everything is marked by race,” Mack said. “Just because the two police officers were white and the two girls were black doesn’t mean it was a racially motivated incident. I think this was an incident due to a lack of training and empathy.”
Mack said what worries him the most is who allowed Plauff and Hobbs, both previously reprimanded by the Toledo Police Department, to get to this point?
“Something’s wrong,” said Mack. “It points straight to the police department, it points straight to the commanders. Who created such a comfortable atmosphere that they became this way?”
Now, he said he hopes the Toledo Police Department takes notes and learns from the incident, and said incidents like this hurt TPD Chief Michael Trondle’s efforts to build bridges with the community.
“It destroys those bridges,” Mack said. “Police officers belong to the community, they represent the community — or should — and if you’re going to have a good relationship between the community and the police, again, they have to be trained to do that.”