Two area residents are facing misdemeanor charges after accusing a Petersburg Police Department officer of inappropriate contact during an arrest in September. Petersburg’s police chief says footage from new body cameras shows the officer acted correctly.
Petersburg police officer Louis Waechter arrested Julie Ruhle for driving under the influence just after 7:30 in the evening on September 28 at the Scow Bay turnaround.
Police body camera footage of the arrest released to KFSK shows Ruhle and another local resident James Vick. In the video Vick claims Ruhle was not driving and that he was there to pick her up.
Now, both Ruhle and Vick are facing charges of giving false information implicating another in a crime. According to a court complaint, Petersburg police chief Jim Kerr said the two came to him to file criminal charges against Waechter. He said they told him the officer used two hands on Ruhle’s butt while helping her get into the patrol vehicle. Kerr said he reviewed footage from the officer’s body camera and determined that Waechter acted appropriately and according to training.
“When you escort someone, you escort them by holding onto their bicep area of their arm and that is to allow you to control the person if the person trips and falls, you can keep them from falling to the ground,” Kerr said this week. “If they try and pull away, you have access to hold onto them and so he did everything 100 percent correct, by policy, and he was very respectful during the entire process as well. He even shined the light for her so she could see in the car and helped her up when she asked for help.”
Waechter filed a report that he helped Ruhle into the vehicle by grasping her upper arm.
The video shows the officer shining his flashlight with his left hand into the vehicle as Ruhle asks for help getting into the back seat. Waechter’s right hand is not visible in the video as he helps her up. Kerr said he allowed both Ruhle and Vick to review the footage and recant their complaint.
“Yes I offered numerous chances and they stuck with the story and so this is where we’re at,” Kerr said.
Kerr sent the court complaint to news outlets in Petersburg because of rumors in the community and said he’s glad to have the video cameras in this time of increased police scrutiny.
The body cams are new for the department, purchased this summer. The PPD has used footage in prosecuting other local cases but this is the first time the Petersburg police have used it to defend an officer against a complaint.
KFSK left phone messages for Ruhle and her attorney but did not hear back Wednesday. Vick on Thursday said his attorney has advised him not to comment. However, Vick said that Waechter turned the camera on and off during the encounter and the video does not show the entire arrest. Chief Kerr maintains that the police are not able to edit the video.
The two have a court appearance on these charges December 9th. She’s also facing charges of driving under the influence and violating conditions of release.
This story has been updated to include the bodycam footage released by police. It has been updated and corrected to say the officer’s right hand is not visible when he helps her up.