HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut state trooper has been reassigned temporarily after a video appeared online showing him berating a driver in an expletive-fueled outburst that derided the general public and expressed how he can't wait to retire.
The driver also accused the trooper of threatening to throw him off a bridge, but that could not be verified from the video because both men were outside the car and the trooper was nearly inaudible because of traffic noise.
The state police commander, Col. Stavros Mellekas, announced Tuesday that the trooper has been placed on paid administrative duty, with no contact with the public, pending an internal affairs investigation.
Mellekas did not name the trooper, but the video shows his name tag, which identifies him as Matthew Spina. An email seeking comment was sent to Spina on Tuesday. Andrew Matthews, executive director of the Connecticut State Police Union, said the union does not comment on pending internal affairs investigations.
Mellekas called the trooper's behavior “disturbing" and not reflective of state police personnel.
“We hold our Troopers to high standards and the behavior displayed in the video is not reflective of the values of Commissioner (James) Rovella or my administration," Mellekas said in a statement.
The driver, who is not identified, posted the video on YouTube. He wrote he was pulled over by Spina on Monday on the Interstate 95 Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven, after “flipping off” Spina for “driving erratically,” not knowing Spina was a state trooper.
The video shows Spina was not wearing a mask or gloves amid the coronavirus pandemic. It recorded the following interaction:
Spina approaches the passenger door window, and the driver asks Spina why he was tailgating another driver and speeding. Spina says he was running the license plate and asks the driver why he was speeding. The driver says he was “only going 60," and Spina explains the speed limit is 40.
After berating the driver for questioning his actions before the traffic stop, Spina says, “Unbelievable. It just never (expletive) end in this (expletive) job. I've got 14 months (to retire). I can't (expletive) wait to be done.”
Spina then says state police are understaffed.
“There's a (expletive) clue to the public — what a bunch of (expletive) you are," he says.
Spin takes a plastic cup ashtray out of the driver's car, throws it to the ground and stomps on it. He then goes to the front of the car where the driver is handcuffed. This is when the driver said Spina threatened to throw him off the bridge if he ever saw him again.
That part was inaudible. Spina then says, "You think I'm kidding? Don't you ever (expletive) with me again.” The encounter ends with Spina walking back to his vehicle without citing the driver, and the driver asking him to be safe.
Mellekas said troopers, like everyone else, are under stress because of the pandemic.
“For our troopers, they are dealing with the impact on their personal lives along with workplace stressors of being on the frontline,” Mellekas said. “While not an excuse, we are sensitive to this and also referred the trooper to our employee assistance program.”