A Waterbury Police Department officer was fired on Monday following an internal investigation into his actions and conduct during a traffic stop in December.
Waterbury police released video footage of the incident on Tuesday. In the nearly 10-minute video, Officer James Hinkle is seen directing traffic at the intersection of Thomaston Avenue and Homer Street around noon on Dec. 13, 2022, due to a mechanical failure in one of the traffic lights. The lights were in flashing mode as he directed traffic.
Hinkle was waving traffic through on one side of the road when a dark-painted SUV drove through the intersection despite Hinkle putting his hand up to tell the car to stop. Hinkle aggressively smacked his hand down on the vehicle as it passed and chased after it, yelling at the driver to pull over, according to police and the video footage.
As the SUV pulled over to the side of the street, Hinkle proceeded to yell at the driver, according to the video.
“Pull over in the parking lot,“ he screamed as he approached the driver. ”Pull in the parking lot right now.”
”I’m so sorry,“ the driver said to Hinkle as he again screamed, ”Pull over.”
”Please don’t scream at me,“ the driver pleaded.
“Pull over,“ the officer yelled again.
”Is anyone with you?” the driver asked.
“No, pullover goddammit,“ he yelled.
The driver pulled into the parking lot where Hinkle continued to yell at her and cut her off when she tried to speak. The driver profusely apologized numerous times and attempted to explain that she misinterpreted Hinkle’s signal, the video showed.
Hinkle told the driver he felt like she was going to run him over in the middle of the street.
“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 said in the footage.
The video showed Hinkle repeatedly going back and forth between the arriving officers and the driver.
“Run her plates and make sure she’s valid,” he said to the arriving officer.
”I can’t believe you,” he turned to yell at the driver. “A week before Christmas I almost get ran over.”
At one point he tried to explain what the driver should do in the scenario but continued to raise his voice and cut off the driver as she tried to speak.
Ultimately, another officer came over and told Hinkle “you need to calm yourself” before the video cut out.
The incident between Hinkle and the driver initiated an internal affairs investigation regarding his actions and conduct. He was immediately placed on paid administrative leave by the department pending the outcome of the internal investigation.
On Monday, Hinkle was fired as a result of the investigation that determined his conduct, actions and behaviors were in violation of departmental policies.
“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,” Waterbury Chief Fernando Spagnolo said in a statement. “WPD officers are trained to demonstrate the highest level of professionalism when performing their duties.”
Hinkle was in his seventh year with the department and was assigned to the patrol division before he was fired.