A Vermont state police trooper who pursued and pulled over a speeding New York City Rabbi after refusing to pull over for 4.5 miles has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
State police and the Department of Public Safety commissioner performed an investigation after New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind demanded an investigation claiming bias against the Fink’s.
While the state police were willing to initiate the process of dismissing all charges in August at Rabbi Fink’s request, they were unwilling to have Trooper Thompson apologize for his actions.
Unwilling to let the matter drop, that is when the Finks turned to Assemblyman Dov Hikind in August for assistance. At the time, Hikind said that he was horrified to hear what had happened and that he overnighted letters regarding the situation to the Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan and the superintendent of the state police.
Hikind said, “I am and have always been a very strong supporter of the police but there is no question that this family’s civil rights were violated. “This should never happen to anyone in America and needs to be dealt with very seriously.”
Hikind was also quoted by media stating,“My constituents’ dress made it clear that they were Hasidic Jews, a sight that may be uncommon in Vermont but one that is hardly a crime. While it would be difficult to mistake the Fink family as people who might pose a danger to police officers, they were subjected to having guns pointed at them, being handcuffed, terrorized and humiliated. This entire incident has left the Fink family traumatized and fearful of travel.” What was never stressed enough in previous articles was the pitch black nighttime hour, wet road, and an officer alone with no immediate back up while chasing a car for 4.5 miles. An officer trying to do a car stop at 11:30 PM is only thinking the worst when they see a driver refusing to pull over.
Vermont police investigators found the nighttime traffic stop was legal and found “there was no evidence from the investigation to suggest the officer’s actions were based on any type of bias or profiling,” according to a statement they issued Friday.
Trooper Justin Thompson clocked a vehicle behind him going at 83 mph (134 kph) in a 65 mph (105 kph) zone on Interstate 91 in Thetford on Aug. 8, the investigation said. Thompson pulled over and put on his lights. Once the vehicle passed he tried to pull it over with his lights and siren, but the driver failed to stop for 4.5 miles.
After the car pulled over, police dashboard video released Friday shows, the trooper shouted from his cruiser for driver Berl Fink to get out and walk backward with his hands up. The trooper, who was holding a gun, ordered Fink to lie on the ground.
Thompson decided to initiate a “high-risk motor vehicle stop” because he was in a rural area late at night with no immediate backup nearby, the vehicle had failed to stop, the occupants’ actions were suspicious and the vehicle had been speeding, the investigation said.
In such a stop, officers are trained to order the driver and passengers out of the vehicle and to have their guns drawn, the statement said.
During the stop, a passenger, Fink’s son, tried to get out of the vehicle, and Thompson ordered him to stay inside. Once backup police arrived, Fink’s son was ordered out of the vehicle and was told to walk backward but failed to do so and walked to a guardrail. He was pushed against the car and was handcuffed.
Two other passengers, Fink’s wife, Sarah Fink, and another child, also were handcuffed.
Sarah Fink told the New York Post the ordeal was “traumatizing.”
“I tell you, there was brutality,” she said. “He was pointing guns.”
Berl Fink told the trooper he didn’t realize he was speeding. He said once he suspected he was being pulled over he was looking for a safe place to pull off the interstate.
Fink, who’s from Brooklyn, was cited for attempting to elude police. He’s scheduled for a court appearance on Oct. 18.
Police released video of the entire incident and contradict some earlier statements Fink family claimed to Jewish media in September. The video shows all officers on the scene being very respectful, reading the drivers rights, and communicating with the Fink family as to why they were pulled over.
Passengers should never tell a driver what to do when police initiate a car stop. It doesn’t make a difference if one thinks he was speeding or not. if a police car is behind with lights and sirens just pull over in a safe manner.
When being pulled over don’t coast for several miles before pulling over. If you just keep coasting, the cop is going to think, ‘What is this guy doing?’ He may think you’re stalling because you’re trying to stash something,” warns a veteran State trooper. “If you pass a few safe places to pull over, the officer is definitely going to think you’re up to something, and that raises suspicion.” When police initiate their lights and sirens they want you to pull over. If it’s nighttime hours turn on the lights inside the car, have your windows rolled down, hands on the wheel and preferably your car engine off and follow instructions from the officer after pulling over.