Waterbury officer screams at driver in video that led to his firing

Officer James Hinkle, a patrol officer who had been with the department for seven years, was the focus of an internal affairs investigation following the incident last month.

Marissa Alter

Jan 12, 2023, 12:31 AM

Updated 530 days ago

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The Waterbury Police Department fired an officer Monday whose body camera footage shows him repeatedly screaming at a woman he says almost ran him over.
Officer James Hinkle, a patrol officer who had been with the department for seven years, was the focus of an internal affairs investigation following the incident last month.
“His conduct during this encounter with a citizen of the community is unacceptable and not representative of the men and women serving the Waterbury Police Department. WPD officers are trained to demonstrate the highest level of professionalism when performing their duties,” said Chief Fernando Spagnolo in a statement about the termination.
Police also released video of the incident, which showed Hinkle directing traffic at the intersection of Thomaston Avenue and Homer Street on Dec. 13 due to a mechanical issue with the light. Around noon, Hinkle was waving traffic through on one side when a car drove across despite Hinkle's commands to stop. Hinkle hit the vehicle with his hand as it passed and chased after it, telling the driver to pull over, according to police and the footage.
“Pull into the parking lot, [expletive] in this parking lot right now,” Hinkle screamed as he approached.
"I'm so sorry," the woman said as Hinkle yelled over her. “Gosh, please don't yell at me."
The woman pulled into the parking lot, but Hinkle's screaming didn’t stop.
“Did you not see this bright yellow vest standing in the middle of the street?” Hinkle yelled.
"No, I did. I thought you were waving me," the woman said as she tried to explain and apologize.
Hinkle ordered her out of the car and learned she was on her way to Target at the time.
“What is such an important factor that me standing in the middle of the street stopping you, and you try to run me over?” he asked.
"Sir, I swear, I was not trying to run you over," the woman responded.
Hinkle repeatedly cut her off. At one point, he yelled, “You're lucky you're not in handcuffs right this second,” and then, “Explain to my kids why they don't have a dad a week before Christmas because you're trying to run somebody over.”
Hinkle's tirade persisted even when other officers arrived. Ultimately, one of them told Hinkle, "You need to calm yourself."
The incident triggered an investigation, during which Hinkle was on administrative leave. The investigation concluded his conduct, actions and behavior violated department policies.
“I haven't seen a case in my 30 years here that's undermined public trust more so than this,” said Spagnolo at a news conference Tuesday. “We are looking to gain trust from the citizens in our community, not belittle them, not berate them, not scare them.”
The woman involved was given a ticket for failure to obey an officer and reckless driving, but the chief said the ticket has been voided.


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