Borough Park rabbi settles case with Vermont Police

Charges dropped against Borough Park man at the center of controversial arrest by Vermont Police after he pays a $100 fine.

Tzvi Lev ,

Police car (illustration)
Police car (illustration)

The Vermont State Police have agreed to drop misdemeanor charges against a Brooklyn rabbi who had been the subject of a controversial arrest this past summer, Vermont's Valley News reported.

Rabbi Berl Fink had agreed to pay a $100 fine for speeding in exchange for dropping misdemeanor charges of eluding a police officer.

Fink's attorney Robert Appel told the Valley News that Fink had paid the ticket and added that his client hoped to put the ordeal behind him. "It was a very unfortunate incident. Both Rabbi Fink and his entire family felt traumatized by the events, and they will be seeking other relief," said Appel.

Fink was arrested in August after he led Vermont State Trooper Justin Thompson on a four-mile police chase when he failed to pull over for driving 20 miles over the speed limit. Fink said that he did not realize he was being pulled over and when he did, could not find a place to do so.

When Fink finally stopped, Thompson ordered him at gunpoint to leave the car with his hands up and handcuffed Fink along with his wife and brother. Thompson told Rabbi Fink that “if you don’t do exactly what I say, you’re going to get tased” and yelled at another officer to "check them for weapons".

Fink's wife Sarah later told the New York Post that the ordeal was "traumatizing" and contended that police had caused them to be fearful of travel. "I tell you, there was brutality. He was pointing guns. I can’t tell you how traumatizing it was,” said Sarah Fink. "We were frustrated. We were helpless. There was nothing to do. When someone starts up with you, you call the police. But what if it is the police?”

"We're talking about normal people. What in the world are you doing to them? It's out of hand. This shouldn't have happened in any state in the United States of America," said Fink's son Yehuda.

Dashcam footage of the incident quickly went viral, outraging members of New York's close-knit haredi community. Many contended that the incident involved anti-Semitism and were incensed when the Vermont State Police Internal Affairs Unit cleared Thompson of misconduct, ruling that "Thompson acted in accordance with his training and Vermont State Police policy and procedure."

"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,” said Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind. “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.”

Jim Kenyon, a columnist for Vermont's Valley News, also blasted the behavior of the police. "After watching the video of a Vermont State Police trooper’s traffic stop of a Brooklyn rabbi and his family on Interstate 91 in Thetford, I don’t know whether to be angry or frightened," he wrote.

"The 40-minute encounter, captured on a cruiser’s dashboard video camera, shows what can go wrong when police bring a military mentality to their daily jobs."