By Kevin Hogencamp
Brie Cooley was one minute from home to relieve her sister from babysitting her toddler and infant when her vehicle was rear-ended Tuesday afternoon at Dawson Road and Third Avenue.
That was the good part of Cooley’s day – compared to what happened next.
Within a matter of minutes, she was handcuffed in the back of a police patrol car. She had been cited for having no proof of insurance and then was arrested refusing to sign the citation.
“It really all happened in less than a minute. I was in shock. When I refused to sign the ticket because he knew I had insurance, I was confused. And when he pulled out his handcuffs, I was in shock,” she said.
Cooley says that if the officer would have explained to her that signing the citation was not admission of guilt, she wouldn’t have refused. Indeed, she was “un-arrested” later – still at the accident scene — after signing the ticket.
Cooley says that today, she will file a complaint against the officer.
“APD is out of control,” she said. “My wrists still have red marks on them (from the handcuffs) six hours later.”
Cooley was not at fault in the accident. At issue are if having an expired insurance card is failing to provide proof of insurance, and if not signing a citation subjects a person to arrest.
Since 2003, insurance cards are no longer proof of insurance in Georgia. Instead, a state-maintained database, the Georgia Electronic Insurance Compliance System, is used to verify vehicle insurance coverage. The change in procedure was made to decrease the number of uninsured vehicles on Georgia’s roads.
Indeed, before Cooley was arrested, the officer had verified through the state’s electronic insurance reporting system that she had valid insurance.
Albany Police Chief John Proctor did not immediately respond to The Albany Journal’s request for information and perspective about the incident Tuesday night.
It was the first run-in with the law for the 27-year-old wife of a youth pastor.
“I never raised my voice. I never used bad language. I did nothing except get an attitude from the police officer, who even refused to untighten my cuffs when they were hurting my wrists,” Cooley said.