Press Release - Statement of Vermont Troopers’ Association

Today Superior Court Judge Katherine A. Hayes, of Windham County Superior Court, in the cases of State of Vermont v. Sergeant Ryan Wood and Trooper Zackary Trocki issued an entry order finding the court is unable to find probable cause for the charge of simple assault. The affidavit fails to establish that the shooting of the beanbag caused Mr. Dean's fall and injury.

The decision of Judge Hayes in this case highlights the concerns raised by the Vermont Troopers Association last week upon learning our members were going to be charged criminally for what we believe may be a policy violation. Sergeant Wood and Trooper Trocki were lawfully performing their official duties in good faith. Their goal in using a less lethal bean bag round was to bring the situation to a peaceful and safe conclusion. If any question of their actions exists, it is one of Vermont State Police policy and procedures, not criminal conduct.

The decision of Attorney General Clark to bring criminal charges in this case is unwarranted and a clear prosecutorial overreach. Attorney General Clark is attempting to criminalize police policies and procedures, while removing the supervision and oversight of the Vermont State Police from Public Safety Commissioner Jennifer Morrison and Vermont State Police Director Colonel Matthew Birmingham. The actions of Attorney General Clark are misguided and dangerous for Vermont law enforcement and the citizens of Vermont.

We cannot create an environment in our profession that criminalizes human error, good faith mistakes and policy violations by police officers. Our members make split second life and death decisions every day that have real world implications to public safety.

This decision comes one day after Judge Kerry Ann McDonald-Cady, of Bennington County Superior Court, dismissed the case against Trooper Robert Zink with prejudice, meaning he cannot be recharged. Judge McDonald-Cady emphasized that prosecutors had a basic responsibility to provide the use-of-force reports to the defense, possibly as early as a year prior. “The discovery violation is one that is so primary here to the principle of due process … of having a fair trial,” she said.

We feel the charges against Trooper Zink were also un-warranted and an overreach by the Attorney General’s Office. In both of these cases it appears Attorney General Clark’s office has weaponized the criminal justice system against law enforcement. This level of abuse should be concerning to all Vermonters, and we call upon Attorney General Clark to dismiss all charges against Sergeant Wood and Trooper Trocki. We feel strongly this case should be investigated and reviewed by the Vermont State Police Internal Affairs Unit, Commissioner Morrison and the State Police Advisory Commission.

Michael O’Neil

Executive Director

Vermont Troopers’ Association