Letter to the editor: Man recounts unsettling stop by sheriff’s deputy
Sheriff Peter Newton’s assertion that “If someone complains about one of my deputies I will certainly investigate it thoroughly and take action as needed” is utter baloney (the quote is from “Deputy stops speeding trooper” in the June 25, 2020, edition of the Independent). In July of 2019 I was in a long line of traffic heading south on Route 7. Addison County Sheriff’s Deputy Brent Newton passed a long line of vehicles in a sheriff’s department truck at a high rate of speed easily 15 miles over the posted speed limit. As the road narrowed from two lanes to one in front of the Ethan Allen Self Storage business, he abruptly cut in front of me and nearly ran me off the road. I blew my horn to signal the dangerous situation, at which point he crossed the yellow lines again to get behind me, turn on his blue lights and pull me over.
Once pulled over he proceeded to lecture me that he was allowed to exceed the posted speed limit because he was a very busy person doing very important things. He threatened to give me a ticket for using my horn. Ultimately, after he learned that I was an attorney, he let me go with a warning as a “professional courtesy.”
I wrote Sheriff Peter Newton a detailed letter about the exchange and how it was an inappropriate exercise of intimidation and police power. I asked him to investigate and get back to me. Then I followed up a month later. To date, I have never heard a peep from Sheriff Newton. He may talk a good game, but when it comes time to do what he says, he is more interested in shielding and protecting his deputies than resolving actual complaints from actual citizens.
The good ole’ boys are still protecting the bad ole’ boys on Sheriff Newton’s watch.
Editor’s note: We asked Sheriff Newton if the allegation was true and he offered this response:
I am sorry Mr. Bjerke feels I am just talking a good game. I did investigate the incident and determined the deputy was going about 10 miles an hour over the posted speed limit. The deputy chose to speed up to get by the car and merge into traffic rather then slow down because of the line of cars. The deputy did in fact stop Mr. Bjerke because he honked his horn as a warning he was there and then continued to hold his horn on while traveling down the road after the deputy was already passed him. This is a violation Vermont title 23 VSA 1131, so the deputy gave him a warning, I do not believe that was abusing his police powers.
I gave the deputy a verbal reprimand for going over the speed limit because that was not the image this department was going to have anymore. We can’t enforce the laws that we don’t follow ourselves. I am sorry Mr. Bjerke’s demands were not met, but that was my conclusion and I stand with it.
Addison County Sheriff Peter D. Newton
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