Great Barrington police officer under investigation after OUI stop
SHEFFIELD — A Great Barrington police officer is under investigation after he was stopped on Saturday morning on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Officer Daniel Bartini, who was off duty at the time, was not charged or cited in the incident; instead, he was given the opportunity to summon a ride home, according to Sheffield Police Chief Eric Munson III.
"My officer didn't want the driver to operate the vehicle at all," he said.
Munson said he has notified Great Barrington Police Chief William R. Walsh.
Great Barrington Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin confirmed on Monday afternoon that Walsh had relayed the situation to her.
"At my direction, Chief Walsh is actively investigating this matter," she said. "He will be issuing a full report to me, after which I will review the facts and information and determine the appropriate action."
Bartini remains an active member of the department pending the outcome of the investigation.
He was heading north on Route 7 about 1:35 a.m. Saturday when Sheffield Police Officer Brendan Polidoro observed his vehicle "straddling" the center line. It appeared to be operating in an erratic fashion, he wrote.
Polidoro flashed his lights in Sheffield but, the actual stop was technically across the line in Great Barrington.
When he approached the vehicle, he detected a "strong odor" of alcohol in the car, the report said. He also detected that Bartini displayed what he described as typical symptoms of alcohol impairment, including bloodshot eyes and slurred speech.
Upon questioning, Bartini conceded that he and his passenger had had a few drinks at a private residence in Ashley Falls. They were headed home.
Polidoro wrote that he determined Bartini was impaired to some degree, although he did not order Bartini to perform a field sobriety test. He asked Bartini if he had someone who could drive him and his passenger home.
Bartini contacted a fellow police officer, Timothy Ullrich, who drove the pair home. Ullrich also drove Bartini's car to a safe area to be picked up the next day.
Munson said his officer's actions were not indicative of special treatment for a local police officer.
"There's a myth out there that if you're stopped for OUI, you get arrested," he said. "That's not always true. Our first concern is for the safety of the driver and the safety of other motorists on the road."
Asked how often impaired drivers are accorded that treatment, Munson said: "I'd say it breaks down to about 50-50."
He reiterated that his officers follow that course of action "on a regular basis."
"Safety is the issue," he said. "We're not out to arrest people."
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.
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