Jumping The Gun

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Jumping The Gun

The cat's out of the bag with details of the suspension of two Westhampton Beach Police Officers following a six-month investigation by Suffolk County Internal Affairs.

In a Page 1 story reported by Hallie D. Martin in tomorrow's Southampton Press, Michael Bruetsch and Joseph Pesapane are identified as the officers suspended two weeks ago by Mayor Conrad Teller.

It all stemmed from a handgun which went missing from an Officer's locker in the base­ment of the Police station sometime between February 27 and March 8 of this year.

The IA investigation included finger-printing, DNA-testing and the use of the polygraph, and was signed off on by five levels within the Suffolk County Police Department, ranging from a Sergeant Investigator up to the Deputy Commissioner of Internal Affairs.

In respect to Bruetsch, the report received by the Village concludes that...

"...the allegations of three counts of con­duct unbecoming [an officer] and five counts of lying/false state­ment [are] substantiated."

The IA report also determined that a single "allegation of lying/false statement" against Pesapane was "substantiated."

Additionally, the document makes it clear that Trustee Hank Tucker is also guilty of lying and making a false statement by continuing to insist that it was the Trustees who initiated the investigation.

"The Suffolk County Police investigation was initiated by Chief Dean, according to the report...."

Actually, all four Trustees take a hit as the IA report documents that after the investigation had begun, on April 30 Trustees Tucker, Joan Levan, Toni-Jo Birk and Jim Kametler "met privately with investigators" and had...

"...requested the meeting ... because they were concerned that Officer McManus was a 'favorite' of Chief Dean, and they question­ed the validity of Officer McManus’s version of events."

Translation: the Trustees backed the Officer found to have been lying.

(Officer Steven McManus appears to be fully exonerated by the IA report.)

Ironically, some of then-Deputy Mayor Kamet­ler's own statements in interviews with the investigators were instrumental in impeaching Bruetsch's version of events.

It was George Santayana who noted that "those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," and since Officer Bruetsch wasn't around here in the latter '90s, he can be excused from not knowing that it was then Police Officer Kametler's testimony before a jury which caused the Village to settle an excessive use of force lawsuit involving Lieutenant David Doyle.

The whole detailed story will be available in tomorrow's Southampton Press, but one other item of note in the IA report:

"...the video surveillance system at police headquarters was out of order during the incident."

The question must be asked why the system was not operational, and is it operational now?

Two years ago the Village's police dispatchers requested that the internal video cameras be shut down since their presence made them "uncomfortable."

That request was denied by Mayor Teller at that time, but it is not known if it had been renewed and granted.

Another question to be asked, though almost certainly unproductively, is who leaked the IA report to the newspaper, and why?

There were only six copies made, and they went to the Mayor, the four Trustees and Village Attorney Hermon Bishop.

For my part, I don't see reporter Martin donning a dark leotard and tights and doing a black bag job on the Mayor's office.


1. Old Timer said...

Finally the truth is coming to light! Mr. Tucker and his fellow Board members are caught with their pants down again! How will they twist and turn this time?

2. RonDO said...

Releasing the IA Report to The Press might be a violation of 50-a of the New York Civil Rights Law.

And that's one possible reason it was done, to give either of the two officers some recourse if their employment is terminated. Imagine that! The entire Village Board subjected to a polygraph test!

3. EastEnd68 said...

Hank must be the one who gave it to the paper -- he didn't need his copy because he wasn't going to read it.

He seems to have read someone's copy.

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