Fired Pickens cop speaks out about Dabo Swinney traffic stop, ticket

Attorney Chuck Allen of Anderson holds up a letter written by Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney as fired Pickens Police Officer Michael McClatchy looks on. Allen represents McClatchy, who said he was wrongfully terminated from his job after posting comments online about the traffic stop of the coach.

Photo by Ken Ruinard, Anderson Independent Mail

Attorney Chuck Allen of Anderson holds up a letter written by Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney as fired Pickens Police Officer Michael McClatchy looks on. Allen represents McClatchy, who said he was wrongfully terminated from his job after posting comments online about the traffic stop of the coach.

— The Pickens police officer who was fired after posting details of his traffic stop of Clemson University football coach Dabo Swinney says he was wrongly ousted for doing his job.

The former officer, Michael McClatchy, clocked Swinney going 63 mph in a 35 mph zone Sept. 3 and wrote him a ticket in a grocery store parking lot while the coach waited to do his weekly radio show. McClatchy said Thursday that he posted details of the Sept. 3 stop on an Internet message board earlier this month to “set the record straight” because there were rumors swirling about the traffic stop.

McClatchy said that when he stopped Swinney at the Pickens Bi-Lo, the mayor of the town called the grocery store and attempted to intervene before the citation was issued to the popular coach.

Pickens Police Chief Rodney Gregory said earlier this month, and city officials reiterated Thursday, that McClatchy was fired for violating a city computer policy, an ethics code violation and violations of general orders. McClatchy was fired Sept. 17.

McClatchy spoke out Thursday alongside his lawyer, Anderson attorney Chuck Allen. Allen is a trustee at the University of South Carolina and also played football for the school.

McClatchy said the Pickens police chief knew he was going to write an Internet post about the Swinney stop. McClatchy said Gregory responded in a “humorous manner”: “Hell, it’s just a speeding ticket. Just don’t put my name out there.”

McClatchy said that when he first posted on 247Sports.com’s South Carolina site, he was on his personal computer at home Sept. 12. He said he corrected a grammatical error in the post two days later while he was at work, resulting in an edited timestamp on the post.

McClatchy said that it was common practice for Pickens police officers to engage in personal Internet use at work, and that no other officers had been disciplined for it.

McClatchy said he initially reduced the Swinney’s citation Sept. 3, writing the coach a ticket for driving 55 mph in a 35 mph zone. The fired officer said Police Chief Gregory further reduced the citation, issuing Swinney an $81.50 fine. The driver’s license points associated with the initial violation were also reduced, from six points to two.

Fired officer talks

Swinney has paid the ticket. A spokesman for Clemson University said Thursday that Swinney had no further comment about it.

Swinney wrote Gregory a Sept. 6 letter of apology and appreciation, which the police chief then gave to McClatchy before he was fired.

McClatchy gave the letter to the Independent Mail on Thursday.

Swinney wrote on his personalized Clemson football stationery, addressing the police chief.

“Dear Rodney:

I appreciate your cooperation to reduce the ticket and apologize for speeding and being a distraction. I have always had the utmost respect for law enforcement. I wish this situation had been handled differently, but I appreciate the latitude you provided with reducing the points and fine.

Please call on me if I can be of assistance.”

Swinney’s brother Tracy was in the pickup with him at the time of the traffic stop. McClatchy said the brothers got out of the truck and approached his patrol car, then refused to return to their vehicle. McClatchy said Tracy Swinney told him that he was a retired Alabama police officer and asked McClatchy to take that into consideration.

Coach Swinney signed autographs for fans who approached him during the traffic stop.

McClatchy said Tracy Swinney made several degrading comments about him as an officer, including that he was “a disgrace to the badge” and that he would “get it one day.”

McClatchy said he believes Pickens Mayor David Owens was angry about the stop of Coach Swinney, and was angrier still that McClatchy refused to take the mayor’s call during the traffic stop.

Owens rebutted McClatchy’s statement Thursday, saying that he never called about the traffic stop, but that a manager at the Bi-Lo grocery store where it happened had called him.

“I spoke with the other officer involved at the scene,” Owens said. “I told them to continue doing their job and follow the proper procedures because there were a lot of people watching.

“I never said anything regarding how the ticket should be handled that day or at any time after the traffic stop,” Owens said. “The next day, after reviewing the video, I even told Chief Gregory to commend the officers on their professional handling of the situation. I also told Mr. McClatchy personally that he did a great job and that I had seen the video and he handled himself very professionally. I took no part in the decision to terminate him and did not even know until later that day.”

The city of Pickens issued a statement Thursday afternoon challenging McClatchy’s account of why he was fired, and also confirming that he had two previous disciplinary actions taken against him before he was fired this month.

“The City of Pickens did not terminate Mr. McClatchy for conduct related to the citation,” city administrator Katherine Brackett said. “His conduct during the traffic stop was professional and he followed all appropriate procedures. Mr. McClatchy was terminated for engaging in private activity on company time on company equipment in addition to violating several general orders. It is important to note that Mr. McClatchy spent an hour and a half during his police shift at the police station ‘editing’ his blog post.”

Brackett said McClatchy had skipped the city’s grievance process, which would allow him to explain to the police chief, the city administrator and the city council why he believes he was wrongfully fired.

“If necessary, the City is fully prepared to defend our decision,” Brackett said. “However, we will do so in a more proper setting, such as a courtroom, where these matters belong.”

McClatchy, 31, has been a law enforcement officer since 2005. He has served two stints at the Pickens Police Department, totaling about two years. He was promoted to corporal about a month before the Swinney traffic stop.

Allen, McClatchy’s attorney, said the former officer will “avail himself of every protection of the law.” He had not filed a lawsuit as of Thursday.

© 2012 OrangeAndWhite.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 18

kellytown writes:

looks like this lawyer is an ambulance chaser. and it looks like he has caught a few also while they were parked. Send him back to Columbia they need some more crooks.

brookesdad729 writes:

You don't mess with Dabo boyyyyy! Don't you know that by now? Seriously, I don't care if it was on your personal computer, you're still expected to be a professional in your job and you don't go posting how you stopped Dabo, Spurrier or anyone else for that matter. What ever happened to common sense. People just act like they don't have any nowadays!

68Scot writes:

It appears tha Dabo had already paid his reduced fine so the case was already closed before the officer made an internet post. If it was not a pending case, the officer had every right to post the info anywhere he wanted. The officer was not involved in a ethics violation. The ethics violation was the mayor trying to get involved in a police matter and the preferential treatment requested by and shown to Dabo. I'll bet if it were you or me, we would have to pay the $445 ticket and get 6 points on our license to really jack up our insurance premium. Just because Dabo is the Clemson football coach doesn't mean he is above the law. At 63 in a 35 it should have been reckless driving. Imagine if he had hit a pedestrian or another vehicle at that speed, it could have been you or one of your loved ones. It appears to me that the former officer is the only one involved in this case with ethics, not the mayor, not the chief, not Dabo, and not Dabo's brother.

Bleedsorange writes:

I do not seem to remember any of the Greenville city police posting, blogging, or talking in general about the gamecock OC taking a leak in the middle of downtown, after his arrest.

columbiabill writes:

It seems to me this is an issue between the officer and the Mayor. From what I have read and seen, Dabo was speeding, apologized, and paid the fine. For him it seems the case is closed. From personal experience, officers often reduce the violation if a person accepts the fact that he was speeding and expresses regret. For the traffic stop itself, I believe the officer was doing his duty and Dabo accepted that he was speeding. The case should have been closed. From the dash cam video it does seem that Dabo's brother was trying to intimidate the officer and this was wrong. Whether the officer had problems in the police department or not is another story and has nothing to do with Dabo. I have read where Dabo has several speeding tickets and this is really no surprise considering how much time he spends on the road along with a tight schedule. I'm sure he is not the only coach with speeding tickets. From Dabo's and Clemson's view point, let's forget this and go beat BC.

TUN writes:

The officer clearly needs to get more going on in his life than traffic tickets etc. Dabo should have been issued a warning and sent on his way. The posting of information about this was clearly unprofessional and inappropriate and he deserved serious censure though I don't think he should have lost his job for this. Every police officer has discretion in issuing tickets. This officer did not have to issue a ticket. He could have and should have issued a warning but what is done is done. I hope Dabo will slow down and this former officer will find new employment. I suspect this former officer wishes he had not made an issue of this violation.

tigeramy2000 writes:

Maybe his lawyer has a position open for him and help the officer out w/ his unemployment status.

columbiabill writes:

in response to TUN:

The officer clearly needs to get more going on in his life than traffic tickets etc. Dabo should have been issued a warning and sent on his way. The posting of information about this was clearly unprofessional and inappropriate and he deserved serious censure though I don't think he should have lost his job for this. Every police officer has discretion in issuing tickets. This officer did not have to issue a ticket. He could have and should have issued a warning but what is done is done. I hope Dabo will slow down and this former officer will find new employment. I suspect this former officer wishes he had not made an issue of this violation.

I have read many comments on the web where someone is saying that if this was an "ordinary" person this person would have been given the ticket and it not reduced. However, in real life the ordinary person probably would have been given a warning but with someone who is well known they don't do this because they will be accused of favoritism.

larrygiles000#285015 writes:

If any other person would have been pulled going 25+ miles an hour over the speed limit their lic would have been revoked. If Mr. Sweeney would have hit an innocent person, say a mother and child, he would have probably killed them. But I guess since he is such a "wonderful" football coach, it wouldn't have mattered! Police officers are not paid enough for putting their lives on the line everyday and putting up with jerks like they have to do on a daily basis. The "head" football coach for the Clemson Tigers needs to be fired, not the police officer trying to do his job!

larrygiles000#285015 writes:

It's not Sweeney, it's Daba, Daba do do!

TigerMarine writes:

Have any of you actually driven on the stretch of hwy 8 that Dabo got nailed on. Well NOBODY goes the posted speed limit of 45 that drops to 35 just before the BiLo. If u do drive 45 (even in the slow lane) you get every 3 toothed Dale Earnheardt wanna be all up your butt. Long story short its a speed trap and judging his post incident reaction I'm sure the officer knew exactly who he was pulling over. All that being said Dabo was speeding and therefore deserved whatever ticket he earned. JUST LIKE how the officer earned his termination by gloating about it to his yardbird buddies IN PUBLIC. Stupid stupid stupid As we all know if you appeal a ticket it normally gets reduced. Dabo did get off a little easy but that could be to keep the city of Pickens from being sued due to the stupidity of their employee.

Bleedsorange writes:

in response to sennmanthetigerfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

They never miss an opportunity, but they always put pickles on my whopper after I say no pickles. Go figure.

TigerMarine writes:

in response to TigerMarine:

Have any of you actually driven on the stretch of hwy 8 that Dabo got nailed on. Well NOBODY goes the posted speed limit of 45 that drops to 35 just before the BiLo. If u do drive 45 (even in the slow lane) you get every 3 toothed Dale Earnheardt wanna be all up your butt. Long story short its a speed trap and judging his post incident reaction I'm sure the officer knew exactly who he was pulling over. All that being said Dabo was speeding and therefore deserved whatever ticket he earned. JUST LIKE how the officer earned his termination by gloating about it to his yardbird buddies IN PUBLIC. Stupid stupid stupid As we all know if you appeal a ticket it normally gets reduced. Dabo did get off a little easy but that could be to keep the city of Pickens from being sued due to the stupidity of their employee.

I have to edit my previous statement because I assumed Dabo was coming from Easley but he wasn't. That hill from downtown Pickens is pretty steep going into the stop but that is no excuse for that speed. None of this changes my final opinion, they both got what they deserved. Suggestions Dabo ..... Slow down ...... Cop ..... Loose weight and then I'm sure you can find a fellow yardbird with no morals that is a police chief that'll hire ya.

brookesdad729 writes:

Where do all of these fat and out of shape cops come from? This kid looks like all he does is sit at Dunkin Donuts all day. Really! Well of course we have not heard the end of this by no means cause the boy done went and got him a Chickenhead lawyer to defend him. As much trouble as they stay in in Columbia, you better believe this guy has had plenty of practice! He ain't no rookie! If there's a trial, he might request a change of venue! Who knows with these idiots! Whatever the case, this has nothing to do with Dabo now! It's the City vs. Lard-*ss and Chicken Run! Go Tigers!

kellytown writes:

in response to 68Scot:

It appears tha Dabo had already paid his reduced fine so the case was already closed before the officer made an internet post. If it was not a pending case, the officer had every right to post the info anywhere he wanted. The officer was not involved in a ethics violation. The ethics violation was the mayor trying to get involved in a police matter and the preferential treatment requested by and shown to Dabo. I'll bet if it were you or me, we would have to pay the $445 ticket and get 6 points on our license to really jack up our insurance premium. Just because Dabo is the Clemson football coach doesn't mean he is above the law. At 63 in a 35 it should have been reckless driving. Imagine if he had hit a pedestrian or another vehicle at that speed, it could have been you or one of your loved ones. It appears to me that the former officer is the only one involved in this case with ethics, not the mayor, not the chief, not Dabo, and not Dabo's brother.

Yes I will agree that no one is above the law, Dabo paid his fine and it is the magistrates decision if he wants to lesson the fine as is the case with all traffic violations.It is a 6point ticket and a 500.00 fine if you choose not to fight it or go to court. I would have hired an attorney. This sort of thing happens in every small town and city in the country. Don't you think for a minute that if it would have been a politician that was in this situation that it would have been totally dismissed and the police man fired. I bet if it would have been any football coach in america not just in Clemson or Columbia or Alabama the same would not have happened of course. The officer should not have let his feelings for what ever team he choses to pull for stand in the way of ethics.

MoncksTater writes:

in response to larrygiles000#285015:

It's not Sweeney, it's Daba, Daba do do!

Toolbags like this Giles need to apply for the vacant position on the Pickens Police website.. because you can't replace stupid without more stupid .

MoncksTater writes:

No rational person , without any bias , would assume that McClatchey stopped Dabo Swinney without prior knowledge of who he was pulling over . He knew the BiLo radio show circuit , knew that Dabo was going to be travelling that road , and set his trap . The fact that Dabo was driving so wrecklessly is inexcusable to this Tiger fan , but lets not pretend that this cop wasn't doing something to gain notoriety ..and to unethically share it with his GoonCoot buddies on a Sackerlina blog. Maybe his next job could be visor retriever for that elderly fella on the Coot sideline.

MoncksTater writes:

Tell ya what .. if Dabo and the Tigers can beat the Sackerlina Grunt Stains this November to get a measure of pride back... I will pay any lawyer fees that are incurred in dealing with this gold digging cop .

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