Police Close a Loophole

    The East Hampton Town Police Department and the County District Attorney’s Office have closed a loophole in arrest procedures following a not-guilty verdict handed down in March by a local jury.
    It emerged during the course of the trial, in East Hampton Justice Court, that following arrests, town police routinely video people as they go through processing at headquarters, but dispose of the videos after 15 days unless specifically requested to keep them. The procedure became an issue after a woman charged with driving while intoxicated  refused to take a breath test at the station house, and told the jury she had done so because she was “frightened.”
    Justice Lisa Rana instructed the jury that the failure of the police to produce the video, which might have proved the defendant’s assertion, should be taken into account during their deliberations. The defense attorney, Melissa Aguanno, drove the point home in her closing argument, and several jurors said afterward that the lack of a tape was a factor in their verdict.
     That will not happen any more. Captain Michael Sarlo, the department’s spokesman, said this week that the taping system, which dates from the opening of the Wainscott headquarters building in 2003, has been modernized. “A protocol has been put in place,” he said, to preserve and capture all videos made.
    In other town police news, Lt. Christopher Hatch, commanding officer of the Montauk precinct, is in Quantico, Va., for 12 weeks, but he is  not on vacation. Lt. Thomas Grenci, who is filling in for him in his absence, said Lieutenant Hatch is at F.B.I. headquarters for a 12-week intensive program covering communication and leadership, computer crime analysis, and forensic science. He will return to East Hampton early next month.