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White police officer resigns after uproar over words to black driver

ATLANTA -- A white police officer in the greater Atlanta area who told a black driver "I don't care about your people" has resigned, authorities said Friday.

Police in suburban Cobb County on Friday released Officer Maurice Lawson's resignation letter, which arose from a traffic stop in November. The letter was dated a day earlier and submitted to Chief John Houser.

"We accepted his resignation effective today," Houser said in a statement.

Lawson had recently been suspended without pay for two weeks after completing a 16-hour training class on de-escalation.

Attorney Lance LoRusso said Friday Lawson "believed that the current media attention and the scrutiny anticipated upon his return to duty would have proved to be an unnecessary distraction to him, and the men and women of the Cobb County Police Department," CBS affiliate WGCL reported.

The president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #13 created a GoFundMe account to raise money for Officer Lawson and his family following his suspension. Some of the donors who have given money are fellow officers, WGCL said.

In dashcam video of the Nov. 16 incident, Lawson gives motorist Brian Baker two citations. Lawson then says on video, "Leave. Go away. Go to Fulton County." Atlanta is in neighboring Fulton County.

Lawson wrote in response to Houser's Jan. 15 memo that he said "I don't care about you people," not "your people." He also wrote that there was no racial motivation behind his comments, but that he had lost his temper when Baker was uncooperative during the stop.

In the video, Lawson can then be heard asking Baker whether he wants to get out of the car to "talk with" him. Houser wrote in the memo to Lawson that those words could be seen as "an invitation for a possible altercation." Lawson then continued to engage in heated conversation with Baker, Houser wrote.

After Baker drove off, Lawson was visibly upset, used profanities and could be saying, "I lose my cool every time."

Authorities said the officer's statements raised concerns it might not have been an isolated incident and led officials to conduct random reviews of video from his other traffic stops and order a fitness for duty evaluation by a physician.

Houser said that Lawson immediately recognized his behavior was contrary to policy and reported his own actions before any investigation had begun -- and before there was any media attention.

Lawson was given a Jan. 4 memo from the deputy police chief that proposed the two-week suspension without pay and 20-hours of verbal defense and influence training.

Houser said the Department of Public Safety's Code of Conduct demands that officers show courtesy and tact and that they control their temper.

"We will be reiterating the importance of courtesy and compliance with policy to our members since unbecoming conduct reflects discredit upon the individual and the Department and will not be tolerated," Houser said.

Lawson also had been ordered to attend 20 additional hours of training on verbal defense in March.

But Houser said "In preparation for his return to active duty with a field training officer, we reviewed additional videos and additional policy issues were discovered."

Houser didn't offer more details regarding the discovered policy issues.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Lawson was also involved in an incident last summer in which he followed county commissioner Lisa Cupid, which led the African American commissioner to accuse him of racial profiling. Lawson was cleared of wrong-doing in the Cupid case.

Messages to lawyers of Lawson and Baker were not immediately returned.

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