Statement of Vermont Troopers’ Association, Attorney David Sleigh, and Attorney Robert Sussman

For Immediate Release:

Statement of Vermont Troopers’ Association, Attorney David Sleigh, and Attorney Robert Sussman

The VTA Leadership along with Attorney’s Sleigh and Sussman are outraged at the decision of Attorney General Charity Clarke to bring criminal charges against Vermont Troopers Association members Sergeant Ryan Wood and Trooper Zack Trocki of the Westminster Barracks.   We object to the criminalization of a split-second public safety decision best addressed through VSP procedures.

Following a review of a criminal investigation the Attorney General’s office has directed VSP to cite Sergeant Wood and Trooper Trocki for simple assault and reckless endangerment for their actions arising from use of force at a residence in the town of Newfane on June 17, 2022.  According to reports, Sgt. Wood and Trooper Trocki were dispatched to the residence because of a report that a guest was acting irrationally and causing damage.  When they arrived, they found a man with a handheld saw at the rear side of the house on a surface slightly elevated above street level.  Based on the circumstances and the actions of the man, a decision was made to use a less-lethal round in an attempt to gain the subject’s compliance. After the less-lethal round was deployed, the man walked to the far edge of what was later learned to be a roof with a twelve-foot drop at the rear side.  The man slipped and fell sustaining a severe head injury.  

The Attorney General has concluded the actions of Sergeant Wood and Trooper Trocki using a less lethal shotgun round to gain compliance of the subject were not justified.  

We are dismayed the Attorney General intends to address these cases through criminal charges.  We strongly believe these cases should have been addressed by VSP through the internal affairs process.  While an internal affairs investigation may result in a finding of a violation of policy and potential discipline, we do not believe these cases rise to the level of criminal conduct.  We believe this is setting a dangerous precedent for Law Enforcement officers throughout Vermont.  

The use of force by Law Enforcement is subject to constantly evolving policy and law.  The decision to use force is complicated and made quickly under difficult and often dangerous circumstances with little or no room for error.  Our members were acting in good faith attempting to resolve challenging situations. Even if determined that the use of force was not justified, a good-faith error should not subject Law Enforcement to criminal prosecution. These cases set dangerous precedent for our membership and will impact all VT Law Enforcement.
Michael O’Neil
Executive Director
Vermont Troopers’ Association