NY State Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) said that the treatment of a Hasidic rabbi and his family from Boro Park by a Vermont State Trooper is being investigated by the Internal Affairs Department of the Vermont State Police.
While traveling through Vermont on their way to New Hampshire, Rabbi Berl Fink and his family were handcuffed at gunpoint and terrorized by a State Trooper in what appears to be a bias incident.
Assemblyman Hikind praised Vermont Governor Phil Scott and Colonel Matthew Birmingham, the Director of the Vermont State Police, for responding immediately to the Assemblyman’s call for an investigation.
Rabbi Berl Fink, age 57, a noted scholar and author who resides in Brooklyn, and his wife Blimie Fink, a Brooklyn school principal, were traveling with their two children on Monday evening, August 7, when they were pulled over by a State Trooper. The officer pointed a gun at family members, including a minor, and proceeded to roughly handle and handcuff each family member in turn. Prior to being cuffed, Mrs. Fink had the good sense to call 911 to report what was occurring so other police officers soon arrived. After 20 minutes of being held, the officer changed his mind, apparently, and released the family, stating that he needed to respond to another, more urgent call. Mr. Fink was issued a summons for eluding a police officer.
The Finks called the State Police the next day to lodge a complaint. They spoke with Sergeant Lyle Becker who told them the incident occurred because the trooper thought Mr. Fink was drunk and had been weaving between lanes, yet no breathalyzer test was administered at the scene. The Sergeant also told the Finks that they had been speeding, yet no speeding ticket was issued.
“The Finks mode of dress made it clear that they were Hassidic Jews, a sight that may be uncommon in Vermont but one that is hardly a crime,” said Hikind. “It would be difficult to mistake the Fink family for people who might pose a danger to police officers, yet they were subjected to having a gun pointed at them, being handcuffed, terrorized and humiliated. This entire incident has left the Fink family traumatized and fearful of travel. I am appalled that any family would be treated like this when it is clearly apparent that they were not even suspected of criminal activity.
“It was only this morning that I contacted Vermont Governor Phil Scott and the Vermont State Police to demand an investigation. Their immediate response shows that Vermont takes matters like these very seriously. On behalf of the Finks and our community, I am grateful to Governor Scott and Colonel Birmingham for their immediate response. I am eager to see the results of this investigation and will continue to monitor the situation carefully.”