An online fundraising campaign has been started for the Saratoga Springs police officer suspended without pay after he pepper-sprayed a driver who had flipped him the middle finger.
The May 16 incident caught on two videos has led to the unpaid suspension of Officer Nathan Baker and prompted disciplinary proceedings that could lead to his firing.
The gofundme.com campaign for Baker was started June 5 and as of Wednesday evening had raised $2,440 toward its $10,000 goal.
The campaign was created by Lisa Perkins of Greenwich, Baker’s mother-in-law, who said his suspension is unjustified.
“The video does not show him doing anything malicious,” she said Wednesday. “He remains calm. He did what he was trained to do.”
The money will be used to retain an experienced attorney to defend him in upcoming disciplinary proceedings, as well as to pay living expenses while Baker is without salary, according to the funding campaign’s written description.
Perkins said Baker’s wife on Tuesday gave birth to a baby boy, who joins a 4-year-old brother and 2-year-old sister in the family.
“With a mortgage and food and now a new baby, it just adds up,” Perkins said.
Saratoga Springs Police Chief Greg Veitch last week suspended Baker without pay and said he will seek Baker’s termination because of the incident.
Baker pepper-sprayed driver Adam Rupeka after Rupeka had given him the middle finger while both were driving. Baker pulled Rupeka over and ordered Rupeka out of his car. Rupeka refused and Baker pepper-sprayed him. Rupeka videotaped the encounter on High Rock Avenue and posted it online.
Baker, 34, was placed on administrative leave shortly after the incident but last week was moved to unpaid suspension to await a disciplinary hearing. He is a six-year veteran of the department.
The same day, June 4, City Court Judge Jeffrey Wait dropped resisting arrest and driving with an obstructed view charges against Rupeka, on the recommendation of the Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office.
Rupeka has indicated through his attorney that he may sue the city.
The entire encounter between Baker and Rupeka, which lasted less than a minute, was caught on two video cameras mounted in Rupeka’s vehicle.
Rupeka, 35, of Troy, posted the forward-facing camera footage to YouTube and to a Facebook page called Capital District Cop Block on the same weekend the incident happened. Footage from the second camera, which captured the officer’s actions, was released later.
In an online blog post after the incident, Rupeka indicated he was in Saratoga Springs to test the department’s compliance with court rulings allowing the public to make the rude and obscene gesture to police officers without facing arrest.
While sitting in the driver’s seat of his car, Rupeka repeatedly asked the officer what crime he had been pulled over for. Baker is shown on the second video using pepper spray on Rupeka about 29 seconds after first speaking to him, then twisting Rupeka’s arm and pulling him out of the vehicle.
In his announcement that he would seek to have Baker fired, Veitch noted the termination process is governed by law, and that it isn’t known how long it will take.
“The public expects that officers will be held accountable for their actions, and sometimes this does not happen as quickly as some would like,” Veitch said in his statement. “No time frame can be predicted for a complete resolution of this matter.”
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Categories: News, Schenectady County