It was a routine traffic stop. Or was it?
The events that evolved from a traffic stop led to the firing of former Hampton police Officer Rob Self.
“I wasn’t demanding. I wasn’t aggressive. It was just a simple request,” says Self.
Attorney Steve Heritick says a career cop was thrown under the bus.
“And for his career to be forfeit as a result of this I think was the biggest crime of all,” says Steve Heritick, the fired cop’s attorney.
A use of force violation turned the tide on an otherwise nearly spotless 5 year career with HPD.
Three days after the September 2009 traffic stop, Self was suspended.
“Almost daily I expected to get the phone call that said ‘come back to work,’ says Self.
That call never came, Chief Chuck Jordan, who once smiled and shook his hand, signed off on the papers to fire him.
An internal investigation took exception to how Rob Self handled the traffic stop.
While in his police car, Self noticed the driver on his cell phone. He asked him to hang up during the stop.
“A reasonable request for me to protect my safety on this traffic stop and he refused to do it several times,” says Self.
The internal investigation concluded the driver’s refusal did not present “a physical and or verbal threat” and that he used “unnecessary force without even the intention of making an arrest.”
During the stop, Self called Wayne Hill, an off duty sheriff’s deputy who happened to be nearby to assist. Self handed him his Taser.
The termination report also took issue with Officer Self handing off his Taser to a plain clothes deputy who “was not certified to use a Taser.”
“It was a safety issue, that was all, and for it to turn into what it became was a really remarkable thing,” says Heritick.
The charges were dropped against the driver who promptly filed a civil suit accusing officer Self of false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.
Last May, a jury cleared Rob Self of any wrong doing.
Chief Jordan declined comment on the firing and referred us to City Attorney Cynthia Hudson, who also declined comment saying “I do not generally provide public comment on city personnel decisions.”
As Self looks back on his police career, he wonders how a single event like a traffic stop could end his career without warning.
“That’s the 64,000 dollar question. No one is really sure,” says Heritick.
Self has had plenty of time to come up with a theory or two. He recalls a good old boy system at HPD where he didn’t fit in.
“They asked me if the N-word bothered me and I told them yes it did bother me,” says Self.
“They would never say it in front of any suspects or citizens. It’s just the way that they talked when they were around each other.”
“After that were you something of an outcast,” asked Barbara Ciara.
“Most definitely,” Self responded.
Responding to those comments, Chief Jordan sent NewsChannel 3 a written statement reading, “All officers that work for the Hampton Police Division are the utmost professionals and must maintain the highest level of integrity and ethics. The Hampton Police Division does not condone nor tolerate any form of racial discrimination. All officers within the Division have a duty to and are required to report any violation of policy and procedure or rule and regulation. At no time did Mr. Self report any allegations of this nature.”
Was Rob Self targeted for termination, or was it really something that happened on the dash cam video that led to his demise?
“I’ve heard it from other chiefs that have looked at this video and analyzed the situation; none of them can understand how this happened because this is part and parcel of what a traffic officer does,” says Heritick.
“That day I was ashamed to be a Hampton police officer,” says Self.