An Oklahoma City Police Department (OKCPD) captain’s request of a sergeant after getting pulled over for a suspected DUI was met with deserved contempt and an administrative investigation.
Early Sunday morning, OKCPD Capt. James “Matt” French, a 32-year veteran of the force, was arrested after admitting to having had several drinks and appearing to fail a field sobriety test. However, it was his repeated requests of Sergeant Chris Skinner to turn off his body camera that made the incident a viral sensation.
Thursday, OKCPD released the footage and held a press conference as part of an effort toward full transparency. According to Skinner, he had witnessed French swerving and failing to signal before he was stopped in a driveway later said to be the captain’s home.
A visibly inebriated French was made to get back into his vehicle after announcing “I’m a captain on the police department.”
From there on, numerous requests, some conspiratorial, were made by the superior officer for the sergeant to turn off his camera so they could have an off-record conversation, “Sir, can I … can you turn that off? I’m asking you. I’m a captain at the police department.”
At one point, while administering the sobriety test having heard French admit to having consumed “three or four” drinks at a poker game blocks away, Skinner again asserted that he would not turn off the camera, noting it was policy.
“I don’t show favoritism to anyone. I don’t care if you’re a gang banger or the president of the United States. If I were to treat you differently than I was to treat some South Side Loco or some pedo, how does that look on me?” he questioned.
The captain was then witnessed failing to stand on one foot for the briefest of moments before taking normal steps when directed to walk “heel-to-toe.”
“Are you going to arrest me, sir?” the distressed French asked before Skinner flatly replied, “Yes, I am.”
Booked at the Oklahoma County Detention Center and later released on bond, according to KOKH, the captain was placed on paid administrative leave after an internal investigation was opened.
Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, OKCPD Chief Wade Gourley explained that leave without pay could only be applied should criminal charges be filed against the captain. Additionally, praise was heaped on Skinner for his actions during the arrest and for not succumbing to pressure from a superior to violate procedure.
“The officer did exactly as he should have,” Gourley said, “and handled it very professional in my opinion. As far as how the officer responded, he did exactly as he should have. Our policies of our body camera, there’s certain types of calls that the body cameras are required to be on, and traffic stops are one of those. So the officer told him, you know, ‘I can’t turn the camera off.’ As to why Capt. French was saying that, I can only make assumptions, but the officer did exactly as he should have by not turning the camera off.”
The entirety of the footage can be viewed below:
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