WEST COVINA (CBSLA) — A West Covina woman says she was filming her encounter with a police officer when he lunged for her cellphone to keep her from recording.
She posted that video online and it’s going viral.
Meanwhile, the West Covina Police Department is defending the officer’s actions, reports KCAL9’s Tina Patel.
The woman was stopped by police for a traffic stop.
The question people are asking Wednesday evening is whether the officer went too far.
That’s what police say they are trying to figure out. They say Eileen Aquino has filed an alleged misconduct complaint against the officer.
She posted the video with the message, “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.”
Police said the officer pulled the car over last Thursday because the vehicle didn’t have proper license plates.
They said when they learned the driver had previous convictions for battery against an officer, and was currently on probation for arson, they decided to search the car.
That is when the confrontation over the cellphone allegedly took place.
Police said people do have the right to tape traffic stops and that the officer wasn’t trying to stop her from doing that when he asked for the phone.
“Typically officers want people’s hands to be free from anything, holding onto anything when they come out of the car. they don’t want to be struck with it,” says Lt. Travis Tibbetts of the West Covina Police.
Patel asked CBS2/KCAL9 Legal Analyst Steve Meister to watch the video.
“Each of them was trying to control the other, unnecessarily. It got out of hand. He should not have reached in the car,” Meister believes.
He added, “I think this officer needs to have some re-training in how to de-escalate a simple situation so that it doesn’t get out of hand.”
West Covina Police say that could happen.
“You know there may be some training points out of this, it’s hard to say without doing a complete investigation. it would be unfair not only for the complainant, but for the officer involved,” Tibbetts said.
Aquino is also claiming officers assaulted her and her husband outside the vehicle.
“Meanwhile the other officer had my husband Chris on the floor kicking him and punching him in his face ..This was the WORSE most traumatizing experience of my life. People don’t deserve to get treated like this. We were fully cooperative,”
Police say their dash-cam video shows a different version of events. And they said while Aquino was handcuffed, there was never any kicking or punching.
Our legal expert says you have the right to hold on to your phone unless police ask to search you.