A New Jersey police officer treated Caren Turner, a former financial adviser to Hillary Clinton, and her daughter "like criminals" during a recent roadside confrontation captured on dashcam video, a prominent New Jersey attorney argues.
Donald Scarinci, who has helped raise campaign funds over the years for his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and who testified during the senator's recent corruption trial, came to Turner's defense Thursday, writing in the Observer that the public's judgment of Turner has been unfair.
"At the very least," Scarinci argues, "the police officer on the scene needs sensitivity training."
"At the very least, the police officer on the scene needs sensitivity training."
Turner recently made national headlines with her performance in the video, telling the police officer at one point, "You may shut the f--- up!"
Soon after the video went viral, Turner resigned from her position as a commissioner with the powerful Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the New York City area's bridges, tunnels and airports.
She also issued an apology, saying in part, "I let my emotions get the better of me and regret my tone toward the police officers and use of off-color language. For this, I apologize."
Tenafly police Officers Matthew Savitsky and Tom Casper, meanwhile, have been congratulated for how they handled the situation.
“I’m very proud of the officers,” Tenafly police Chief Robert Chamberlain said last month. “Messages are coming in from as far away as Texas, Michigan and South Carolina, praising them and wanting them to be commended.”
"Caren Turner did not act any more emotional than any other parent would have acted under the circumstances."
But lawyer Scarinci doesn't seem to agree.
"When you get past the news headlines and watch the video, Caren Turner did not act any more emotional than any other parent would have acted under the circumstances," Scarinci writes.
"Instead of explaining the situation to the parent as one human being to another, the police officer in this infamous video treated both the parent and her child like criminals."
He also suggests that police were to blame for Turner's emotional state in the video.
"The police officer in the video did the right thing by enforcing the law without regard to the status or position of the person violating the law," Scarinci writes. "However, police in the field need the judgment, the wisdom and the skill to calm down emotional situations. Objectively watching the video, the police officer’s failure to do so in this instance clearly inflamed the situation."
Turner had confronted the two Tenafly police officers soon after they pulled over a car in which Turner’s daughter and her friends had been riding. The daughter had called Turner to the scene.
In a span of approximately 10 minutes, Turner appears argumentative, and insists that an officer call her "commissioner" instead of "miss."
But Turner has denied accusations that she tried to use her position with the Port Authority to influence the police.
"(A)t no point did I violate the Port Authority's Code of Ethics or ask for special treatment for anyone involved, nor did I suggest, in any way, that I would use my position at the Port Authority to affect the outcome of the violations issued to the driver," she wrote in her apology.
Turner is ultimately justified in her actions, Scarinici concludes, because the officer refused to tell Turner why he was impounding the car.
“Turner has received backlash for suggesting that police officers share some of the blame for the incident getting out of hand. But doesn’t she have a point?"