Sheffield to probe handling of Great Barrington police officer's suspected OUI

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SHEFFIELD — The town has initiated an investigation into a recent stop of an off-duty Great Barrington police officer who was suspected of drunken driving but was not tested.

"We want our residents to know that we take these matters very seriously," said Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard.

LaBombard, who made the announcement during Tuesday's Select Board meeting, said the investigation will be coordinated by Town Counsel KP Law of Boston.

The Select Board, which did not have to rule on LaBombard's decision, did not weigh in on the matter.

Great Barrington Police Officer Daniel Bartini was off-duty about 1:35 a.m. Aug. 20 when he was stopped by Sheffield Officer Brendan Polidoro, who reported that he observed Bartini's vehicle straddle the center line on Route 7.

Bartini said he was coming from a private residence in Ashley Falls, according to an entry in the Sheffield police log. He did not deny that he had been drinking.

Polidoro, based on his experience, said he determined that Bartini was impaired. But Bartini was not given a sobriety test, and he and his passenger were allowed to call for a ride home.

Sheffield Police Chief Eric Munson III has said it's "a myth" that police arrest every driver they stop for suspected drunken driving.

He said such decisions are made on a case-by-case basis and that his department is just as likely to allow a driver to arrange for a ride home.

Massachusetts does not have a specific protocol for addressing intoxicated or impaired drivers.

Sheffield Selectman Chairman Nadine A. Hawver has expressed her support for the town's department and its officers.

The town of Great Barrington also has launched its own investigation into the matter. Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin said she and Great Barrington Police Chief William R. Walsh are giving the investigation their "full attention."

Tabakin said she expected to have an announcement "fairly soon," but she did not specify a date.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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