As previously reported on VIN News (http://bit.ly/2xRV0Ye), Rabbi Berl Fink drove for more than four miles on a Vermont interstate on a rainy August night as a state trooper signaled for him to pull over.
According to Rabbi Fink, he did not initially realize that the trooper was attempting to pull him over and once he did, he continued driving until he located a safe spot to stop on the darkened highway.
But an op-ed that appeared in Sunday’s Valley News (http://bit.ly/2xT9ruP), which serves the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire, slammed Trooper Justin Thompson and his fellow police officers for displaying an attitude that seemed more appropriate in a war zone than on a deserted rural highway.
Columnist Jim Kenyon wrote that he was both angry and frightened after viewing video of the encounter released by the Vermont State Police seven weeks after the incident occurred. Kenyon described the events he witnessed as a prime example of “what can happen when police bring a military mentality to their daily jobs,” noting that he has seen no move by officials on any level to “halt the growing militarization of police, both in equipment or attitude.”
While the State Police Advisory Commission’s review of the incident determined that no misconduct had occurred by the officers at the scene, that decision was made during a two hour and fifteen minute closed-door session on September 28th.
The public portion of that meeting last just two minutes long, said Kenyon. A request by Kenyon to discuss the matter with a spokesperson for the state police was turned down and he was advised that no additional information would be provided by the traffic stop.
Attorney Robert Appel, a former director of the Vermont Human Right Commission who is representing Rabbi Fink, told Kenyon that miscommunications may have occurred between Rabbi Fink and Trooper Thompson, due to the stress of being held at gunpoint.
“The state police see themselves as warriors, not peacekeepers,” noted Appel.
Valley News (http://bit.ly/2xREnM5) reported that Rabbi Fink turned down an offer of diversion and a $300 fine to resolve the case in court because it would have required an admission of guilt, something Rabbi Fink was unwilling to do.
Acting judge Charlie Buttrey refused Appel’s bid to have the case thrown out, moving instead to arraign Rabbi Fink, who was later released on his own recognizance.
“Based on the trooper’s affidavit, I think there is probably cause to believe a crime was committed,” said Buttrey.
If convicted, Rabbi Fink faces up to one year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.