Zebulon Police Chief under fire for disrespectful treatment of officers during traffic stop

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A Zebulon police chief is facing tough criticism over his treatment of other officers. It was all caught on video in Pike County.

Police Chief Jonathan Hemphill was pulled over at a traffic stop by officers in the neighboring City of Molena, Georgia, on Aug. 25. The two cities in Pike County shared an emergency radio channel but after the Zebulon Police Chief was pulled over by two Molena officers – he blocked the city from using its frequency.

Bodycam video shows Hemphill getting right out of his car after he was pulled over during the traffic stop. He then approaches their cruiser.

"I'm the Police Chief in Zebulon. Matt Polk worked for me. Your chief worked for me," he said to the officers in the bodycam video.

"Well, nice to meet you," responds the officer.

The Molena officers explain they pulled him over for dark window tint and having a "ghost tag," which means it's not registered.

A criminal justice expert said he's concerned about the whole interaction.

"I looked at that video, and thought, how unprofessional," Criminal Justice Expert Thaddeus Johnson said.

He said he was alarmed at the lack of respect the chief showed the officers.

"The first thing he said was, 'I'm going to call your chief.' As if he is above reproach. As if his relationship makes him above the law. As if the relationship makes him above the officers who are working every day to keep our street safe," Johnson said.

The criminal justice expert added he thinks Chief Hemphill's treatment of one of the officers, who was a woman, was also unmannerly.

"He was extremely disrespectful - and the level of disrespect was much higher toward the female officer. And that's an issue we face, this bravado, the patriarchal aspect, the machismo. We wonder why women, we can't get them to join the force, or we don't see them in positions of leadership," he said.

In the bodycam video, the chief disputes why he was pulled over. When the officer said it was because of the window tint, he curses at them.

Molena Police Chief Matt Polk said he stands by his officers.

"I don't know why that traffic stop transpired the way that it did, but I am very proud of my officers for the way that they handled it," Chief Polk said.

Johnson also celebrated the officers and how they reacted/

"I commend those officers because there is a power imbalance, they're just trying to do their job, and they did not back down. For citizens, you want officers like that, who reinforce the law, no matter who it is," Johnson added.

11Alive reached out to the City of Zebulon and the Police Chief's Office to try to get a response, but so far we have not heard back.

Molena Police Chief Polk said they switched over to using the Pike County Sheriff's Office channel for emergency communications to keep their residents safe.

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