Report: Using armored vehicle to make Alachua traffic stop in poor judgment

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office promised an investigation. It is finished and a 55-page report was released in recent days.

The result? The deputies involved were exonerated. The report said using an armored vehicle in a traffic stop was in poor judgment.

A deputy involved was suspended a day without pay. Another deputy was given a written reprimand.

In the cell phone video seen around the country, 23-year-old college student Lucas Jewell of Gainesville was pulled over in Gainesville by Alachua County's SWAT team in a BearCat Armored vehicle on the way back from working security at a UF football game on April 11.

Deputies originally pulled Jewell over because they said they saw him gesture with his middle finger, and gave him a written warning.

This new investigation found they were justified in pulling him over.
Art Forgey is the spokesman for the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

"The investigation found that the deputies were wrong in the fact that the driver made an illegal hand gesture. He did not make an illegal hand gesture and was perfectly justified to give them the middle finger if he wanted. However, they were exonerated," Forgey said.

The report said they should have called in a marked patrol car to make the stop. A spokesman for the Sheriff's Office said a marked car wasn't nearby at the time.

The report also said they should not have given Jewell a written warning citation, because even though the middle finger is considered rude, it's not illegal, and protected under free speech.
 
"I think it came to the proper conclusion. Everyone focused on the fact that it's a tank, which it wasn't a tank. And the hand gesture. There's two other legitimate reasons there for the safety of the motoring public," Forgey said.

"I'm glad that they admitted a failure in policy in their internal investigation. They admitted that they shouldn't have pulled me over in that vehicle but there was no policy in place to say when and when not they can pull people over. So now there's going to be a policy. So, things are changing in that regard," Jewell said.

The report said one of the deputies is tasked with creating a draft policy on when that armored vehicle can and cannot be used in a traffic stop.
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