MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (WTNH) — Were they just doing their job or is this a white wash?
That’s the question tonight following a State Police Internal Affairs investigation clearing three state troopers in a controversial incident more than two years ago. News 8 broke this exclusive story in January of last year, and we’ve been seeking to get this report for almost a year.Original Story: Trooper on video; “We gotta cover our [expletive]”
This week, as media outlets brought this before the state Freedom of Information Commission, the State Police suddenly decided to release it.
On the cellphone camera video you can see and hear this exchange;
TROOPER: “I’m on state property, I’m on state property.”
PICARD: “You have no reasonable expectation…”
TROOPER: “Be quiet.”
PICARD: “Can I have my phone back?”
TROOPER: “Not yet…I got the camera.”
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The exchange occurred while 28-year-old Michael Picard was protesting against State Police DUI traffic stops. He was also openly carrying a gun, which is legal because he has a permit.Related Content: 3 state troopers sued for taking away camera phone
At a previous point in the video, a Trooper takes the gun. The camera phone kept rolling, and the Troopers sound as if they are groping to find some law that was broken, with one heard saying they needed to cover their posteriors.
TROOPER: “We gotta cover our ass.”
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Picard was charged with creating a public disturbance, reckless use of the highway, and trespass. Charges that were dropped by prosecutors ten months later.
Now, after nearly two years, the State Police have released an internal affairs investigation report that completely exonerates all three Troopers saying, “There is sufficient evidence which indicates the act or incident did occur, but your actions were justified, lawful and proper.”Related Content: State troopers exonerated in probe of protester arrest
Picard, who is suing the Troopers in federal court for alleged violation of his constitutional rights declined comment, leaving it to his lawyer, Atty. Joseph Sastre, “Anytime that you have a police department investigating themselves, I mean, you have to take that for what it’s worth.”
The report notes that “the U.S. Supreme Court has held that a Trooper may stop a person to investigate behavior, which falls short of probable cause to arrest.” and that “Constitutional law does not require a Trooper who lacks the precise degree of information necessary for probable cause to ignore suspicious conduct.”
So in this case, according to the report.; carrying a sign, shooting video with a camera phone and possessing a legal firearm can be considered suspicious conduct.Web Extra: You can read the entire Internal affairs report here.