A West Covina woman recorded a video of a police officer attempting to take her phone during a traffic stop. (Image source: KCBS-TV video screenshot)
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A California woman has filed a misconduct complaint against a West Covina police officer who attempted to take her phone from her while she was recording her traffic stop, KCBS-TV reported.
A routine traffic stop escalated quickly, and the woman, Eileen Aquino, recorded the incident and posted it online to expose what she called the "crooked" West Covina Police Department.
Two West Covina Police Department officers pulled over Aquino and her husband on April 12 because their car didn't have proper license plates.
A review of Aquino's record showed she had previously been convicted of battery against an officer and was also on probation for arson, so the officers decided to search the vehicle.
At that point, Aquino began recording the stop on her cellphone. The officer asked her to give him the phone before getting out of the vehicle. Aquino refused, stating that she knew her rights.
The officer then lunged in the car, attempting to grab the cellphone from her as she continued to hold it away from him, still recording.
Social media attention
The situation garnered attention once Aquino posted the video on Facebook with the caption: "I'm only posting this to show people that it doesn't matter if you are a law-abiding citizen, the #westcovinapd are so crooked, everything you've heard about them is true."
Aquino also accused the officers of assaulting her husband, but dashcam video does not show them punching and kicking him as she alleges.
Was the officer in the wrong?
According to Lt. Travis Tibbetts of West Covina PD, people can record traffic stops. However, he said officers want people's hands to be free when they are getting out of the vehicle.
"Typically officers want people's hands to be free from anything, holding onto anything when they come out of the car," Tibbetts told KCBS. "They don't want to be struck with it."
Tibbetts said they will investigate the incident, but doesn't want to definitively say yet whether the officer handled the situation incorrectly.
"You know there may be some training points out of this, it's hard to say without doing a complete investigation," Tibbetts said. "It would be unfair not only for the complainant, but for the officer involved."
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