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Nov 9, 2009 9:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Report: Missing firearm led to inquiry; Two Westhampton Beach Police officers suspended

Nov 9, 2009 9:30 AM

The Suffolk County Police Internal Affairs Bureau has concluded that two Westhampton Beach Village Police officers who were suspended late last month lied to superior officers and investigators about the circumstances surrounding a fellow officer’s missing handgun.

Westhampton Beach Village Police Chief Ray Dean requested the Internal Affairs Bureau investigation after an incident in March. A copy of the bureau’s final internal report, which is dated October 14, concludes that Officer Michael Bruetsch, who was suspended in October, “came into possession” of a personal handgun belonging to a fellow officer, Steven McManus. The weapon—a Taurus .40-caliber, semi-automatic handgun owned privately by Officer McManus, not his police-issued firearm—was left in his locker at Westhampton Beach police headquarters on Mill Road before Officer McManus left for vacation in late February, according to the report.

The report also states that Officer Bruetsch, who has had past conflicts with Officer McManus, “subsequently put the gun into [Officer] McManus’ vehicle”—referring to his personal truck—on March 8, the same day that Officer McManus returned from vacation and discovered that the weapon was missing from his police locker.

Strong circumstantial evidence gathered by investigators also suggests that Officer Bruetsch had came into possession of the gun, which might not have been properly secured in Officer McManus’s locker, and planted it because it “may have been seen as an opportunity to embarrass [Officer] McManus,” according to the report. Investigators determined that accounts of the incident provided by Officer Bruetsch—who voluntarily submitted to a polygraph examination, which he reportedly failed—were not truthful, the report said.

As part of the probe, investigators photographed Officer McManus’s locker, dusted for fingerprints and even conducted DNA testing on the firearm and locker handle. The report states that no fingerprints were found, and the DNA analysis was inconclusive.

In a letter attached to the report and sent to Inspector David Ferrara, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Department’s Internal Affairs Bureau, Captain Joseph Capolino writes that, after reviewing the investigative report, he concurs with its conclusion that “the allegations of three counts of conduct unbecoming [of an officer] and five counts of lying/false statement” against Officer Bruetsch are “substantiated.”

The same letter also states that Westhampton Beach Police Officer Joseph Pesapane—the second officer who was suspended—provided “a false statement when questioned regarding whether he had communicated with anyone about the incident” prior to being interviewed by internal investigators on June 16. In his letter, Capt. Capolino recommends that the allegation of lying/false statement filed against Officer Pesapane “be classified as substantiated.”

Both Officer Bruetsch and Officer Pesapane were suspended, with pay, on October 21 by Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller. Neither officer had been reinstated as of Monday, and it was not immediately clear when or if they would be reinstated. The Village Board will have the opportunity to take final action—in closed-door session—to determine the officers’ guilt and any possible punishment.

The internal report is not a public document, since it relates to disciplinary issues involving village personnel. The Press obtained a copy of the internal report from an anonymous source. Mayor Conrad Teller, who has reviewed the original document, confirmed the authenticity of the report, saying the copy obtained by The Press “appeared to be a factual copy” when he had the opportunity to review it on Monday.

The Suffolk County Police investigation was initiated by Chief Dean, according to the report, after Officer McManus discovered that his handgun had gone missing on March 8. The report notes that Officer McManus had not worked since February 25, and was positive that, after working his last shift before vacation, he had secured his off-duty weapon in his locker at police headquarters. The weapon was later recovered by the officer’s wife, who found it in his vehicle.

Westhampton Beach Village Board members met privately with investigators on April 30 regarding the incident, according to the report. Board members Jim Kametler, Toni-Jo Birk, Joan Levan and Hank Tucker requested the meeting, the report states, 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.

Additionally, Mr. Kametler told Internal Affairs Bureau investigators that Officer Bruetsch, who was previously employed by the New York City Police Department, said that he and Officer McManus had thoroughly searched Officer McManus’s truck and did not find the weapon, according to the report.

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where are all the posters who were claiming this was directly related to Kabot's "set up" DWI bust? Maybe if there had been a third-hand anonymous letter it would have been true.
By littleplains (305), olde england on Nov 4, 09 4:54 PM
Never saw this one coming!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 4, 09 5:19 PM
wasnt I the one to say a few comments past that even if Kabot loses people will STILL be making negative remarks about her b/c they are just never happy. This article has absolutely nothing to do w/her "littleplains." So whats your beef now?? Didnt your girl ATH win??
By Sam (252), Westhampton Beach on Nov 4, 09 5:27 PM
Maybe Linda was right, after all, not to blow that test. This sure does seem to prove that at least some officers are not above lying and taking other actions to make someone else look bad. Sorry this wasn't made public before the election!
By SusieD (115), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 5:30 PM
3 members liked this comment
The fact that an anonymous source provided the Press with a copy of this report is troubling.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 4, 09 5:35 PM
Anonymous sources are the only ones wililng and able to come forward in this area. This town is too small to openly criticize anything to do with the police without putting yourself at risk, and be exposed constantly. The police have a tough job and do it well, but not all of them should have been given a badge and gun. New York and Suffolk County's excessively strict control of handguns means the folks who do step up have no means of defending themselves in the worst case scenarios.
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 6:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
can somebody please explain this to me? how is leaving a gun in another officers' personal vehicle going to embarrass that officer? Is that all this is about? two officers having a conlfict with one another and one placing the others personal handgun in his car? I'm sorry, I just don't get this
By Ben Dover (3), Northampton on Nov 4, 09 5:42 PM
Loss or misplacement of a firearm is serious matter. Officers can have pay forfeited for such events when it is a department-issued weapon.
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 6:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
I changed my mind, I'm glad Linda did not do the test that evening, these police offices are clowns.
By nurse (53), sag harbor on Nov 4, 09 5:55 PM
1 member liked this comment
If you're going to be suspended for lying at least get suspended with pay. Now that's a union worth joining!!
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 6:05 PM
Give me a break. One has NOTHING to do with the other. I bet there are bad nurses where you work and that has no reflection on you right? Or does it make you a bad nurse too? Ryan Lucas, the arresting officer has been at work since Oct. 21. So, it's obvious it's not him!!!
By hamptoniteforlife (15), WHB on Nov 4, 09 7:50 PM
DONT you just wish there was a thing called common sense??
By lo-cal (78), southampton on Nov 4, 09 7:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
I was glad to see that justice was finally handed down in the great Village of Westhampton Beach. The one officer should go back where he came from, who loves to milk the system. It time to get rid of all the bad apples its starting to stink!!!!!!
By Off the Job (1), Westhampton Beach on Nov 4, 09 7:19 PM
Off the Job,

You would have to start with the Chief of Police.
By sayitaintsojoe (100), Westhampton on Nov 5, 09 12:10 PM
1 member liked this comment
Amen to that. Start where the trouble began.
By southern4eva (7), Raleigh on Dec 31, 09 1:46 PM
Think about it....if any of the officers involved in Kabot's arrest were involved in this case...don't you think the Press would have mentioned that? And one does not have anything to do with the other.... Kabot will have her trial and she will either be found innocent or guilty....and, perhaps, after this, her innocent plea will be looked at with less skepticism and she may even get a fairer trial than before....
By Tim Tanuka (38), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 8:26 PM
It seems to me that Westhampton has more than its share of police officers behaving badly the last several years. what is going on over THERE? IS WESTHAMPTON GOING TO WIND UP LIKE A CERTAIN NORTH FORK POLICE DEPT THAT WAS DISBANDED SEVERAL YEARS AGO WHEN THE TAXPAYERS GET FED UP WITH THIS NONSENSE?
By jim (48), hampton bays on Nov 5, 09 1:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
In an effort to put an end to any speculation if the press does in fact have a copy of it what are the names of the police officer's that appear on the report.
By golfbuddy (180), hampton bays on Nov 5, 09 8:06 AM
The names are published in the newspaper, and the Beach Blogger somehow had them on-line last evening. [http://www.whbqt.info/template_permalink.asp?id=919]
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 5, 09 10:03 AM
Michael Bruetsch and Joseph Pesapane are identified as the officers suspended two weeks ago by Mayor Conrad Teller.
By Johnny Nova (83), Northampton on Nov 7, 09 9:29 PM
If I were with the SH Press I certainly wouldn't publish names especially when they are names of unscrupulous police officers.
We already know that the officer(s) engage in retailiation.
By heath (18), southampton on Nov 5, 09 8:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
You're not going along with that silly business about Linda Kabot's DWI stop being some sort of pay-back conspiracy, are you?

If any of the Editors or reporters names show up in the police blotter anytime soon, you might have a case.

Actually, I'm surprised that Westhampton Beach still has a Police Department after reading something like this.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 5, 09 10:05 AM
I have no idea about Linda Kabots DWI stop or a conspiracy, I wouldn't be surprised though if it turns out to be true because of the mentality of her detractors like the police that showed up enforce setting out to intimidate her in town hall. I just know that the former comptroller's partner is a former SH policeman and works in town hall, and am only guessing that LK "enemies" list is probably longer than we all know, whether they are police, former police, former comptrollers, or otherwise. ...more
By heath (18), southampton on Nov 5, 09 10:39 AM
To Frank Wheeler: how did you insert your comment @10:03 am above my 8:17 am lol?
By heath (18), southampton on Nov 5, 09 10:46 AM
I have mystical powers that few here can even guess at. My 'Net Foo is mighty. Be afraid -- be very afraid.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 5, 09 3:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
ahahahahah, just figured out reply & indented posts
Don't worry I'm still afraid lol
By heath (18), southampton on Nov 5, 09 6:32 PM
This is a good cop vs bad cop.The chief has been fighting an uphill battle,trying to clean up the department,it seems as if there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. Westhampton should wake up and pay attention,to start with there are some curious questions to be answered by the board.Why was Hank Tucker so insistant he started the investigation,when in fact it has just been shown that it was indeed the chief,why did Tucker bring this up at a public meeting before the report was finished,and ...more
By curious (77), westhampton beach on Nov 5, 09 11:08 AM
My question is why would an officer bring his gun to work and then take it back home every day that they work?
By southern4eva (7), Raleigh on Dec 31, 09 1:45 PM
Good comments Curious;
I am in search of the honest cop and I'm sure we have them.
I am however wary of Gresham's Law which says;
"The bad drives out the good."
By diogenes (57), westhampton on Nov 5, 09 3:26 PM
That Police department is way to incestuous, has been for years.The mayor is the ex chief.Remember Vebeek case a dozen years ago.Sounds like same old monkey business going on.
By STANNER (15), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 5, 09 3:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
And yet another example of our tax dollars going to good use. Ugh.
Is it that hard to just go to work and do the right thing?
By double standard (1506), quogue on Nov 5, 09 3:58 PM
Ever since the Board of Trustees and the Mayor decided to run the police force by ignoring Ray Dean in his role as Police Chief, discipline and productivity in the department have gone way down. Eliminating the Lieutenant , changing the schedule and having contact directly with disgruntled officers have been the method of operation of this administration. Only Kametler and the Mayor had any police experience and training; the former left under disciplinary pressure and the other ended up leading ...more
By watchdog (1), southampton on Nov 5, 09 4:26 PM
3 members liked this comment
Westhampron Beach is under 3 square miles and does not need a overpaid police department. Lets not forget the "cop owned" bar busted by Suffolk PD for selling drugs or when the Post Stop was robbed at gun point the 1st police car to show up was a Southampton police car.
Maybe they should look in "Jim the Gun" when he was on this so-called police force and how he was covered by the chief.
This has NOTHING to do with Last call Linda
By sjd (420), Westhampton Beach on Nov 5, 09 5:08 PM
First off, this incident has nothing to do with the Linda Kabot fiasco. The officers involved in either situation are not the same.

Second, the two officers who were wrongfully suspended was not done by the action of the Suffolk County Internal Affairs Office; The WHB Chief of Police took it upon himself to make that stupid decision.

It's sickening that because the Chief of Police and a few officers who are so far up his rear-end are so corrupt that it makes the department as ...more
By whb631 (2), whb on Nov 5, 09 5:23 PM
2 members liked this comment
Other than the first paragraph, this Comment is an utter fiction.

The SCPD Internal Affairs report was presented to the Police Chief, and he handed it up to the Mayor. It was the Mayor who suspended the two officers, not the Chief, and to suggest otherwise is either ill-informed or an outright lie.

If there is any corruption, the SCPD IA report shows that it's on the part of the two officers who have been suspended, and likely on the part of two members of the Village Board.

There ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 5, 09 6:18 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By southern4eva (7), Raleigh on Dec 31, 09 1:52 PM
And which member of the WHPD "B Faction" are you? Ed Hamor? The happy dispatch tandem of Charlie Benkov & Kathy Barosa? Kerry Laube? I can keep on going...

The facts in the report are as clear as day. An investigation that was conducted by the Suffolk County PD, a report that went through several rungs of the SCPD chain of command all the way to the Deputy Commissioner. PO Breutch is charged with 3 counts of conduct unbecoming an officer and 5 counts of lying/falsifying a statement (thanks ...more
By Tom Selleck (8), Sag Harbor on Nov 5, 09 7:30 PM
2 members liked this comment
Well, if the 'beach blogger' is the source of all of your information then you are extremely ignorant. He is extremely biased and has been known to stir sh*t throughout WHB for some time now. He is also in no position to legally obtain any documents, reports or information about this situation. All I can say is consider your sources, and soon enough the truth will come out and you will be eating your words.
By whb631 (2), whb on Nov 6, 09 12:26 AM
The source of my information is certainly not solely the beach blogger, sorry to disappoint you there, sweetie. I merely used his blog to obtain the proper number of charges brought against both dirty officers, Breutsch and Pesapane. By now it is--it shouldn't be--but it is public information exactly what was contained within the SCPD's report.

I goad you, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE try to make me eat my words. The fact of the matter is the truth HAS come out, and you, my dear (or masked sir(s)) ...more
By Uncle Jesse (3), Southampton on Nov 6, 09 3:31 AM
whb631: "He is extremely biased and has been known to stir sh*t throughout WHB for some time now."

You say that like it's a bad thing!

Of course he's biased. He's a long time local guy who's tired of the crap that's going on. It doesn't mean that his facts are wrong. I don't always agree with him but I understand what he's doing and appreciate that.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 6, 09 11:06 AM
1 member liked this comment
My experience is that the beach blogger reports very accurate information and is a good source.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Nov 6, 09 6:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
Whats all the fuss about. Wasnt it the mayor of WH that was shooting at a raccoon with a 38 in his backyard with NO repocussions?. Gee if a citizen did that they would have had the silver bracelets....Seems to be a double standard over there.
If they have nothng to hide an investigation will reveal that as well.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Nov 6, 09 6:52 AM
1 member liked this comment
No, you fathead, it was the Deputy Mayor at the time!

But you're right, if anyone else would have done something like that, it would have been off to the hoosegow!

>> "If they have nothng to hide an investigation will reveal that as well."

What's funny is that now three or four of the Trustees are trying to hide the investigation, and doing a BAD job of it!

Maybe they entire PD should be disbanded as was done on the North Fork a number of years ago,
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 6, 09 11:11 AM
There would be no fuss if the board would have let the chief do his job,they have done all they can to undermine him,and his authority.These are the people the voters of Westhampton put into office,maybe now some w ill wake u p.There is more that will surface I'm sure.It is now known that Hank Tucker lied in front of the public at the Oct meeting and the rest went along with him, will that matter to the people,only time will tell.Those who are commenting here about the police departments problem ...more
By curious (77), westhampton beach on Nov 6, 09 8:01 AM
2 members liked this comment
By foundthefacts (8), westhampton on Nov 6, 09 9:46 AM
Frank Ill take fathead as a compliment as it was ment right? I stand corrected deputy mayor. By the way, was the deputy mayor properly licensed to have a handgun at the time of his shooting it in the back yard?? There is noting wrong with places being investigated from time to time, it may help clean up any problems or stop them from happening in the first place. Cant wait to here the results
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Nov 7, 09 6:29 AM
That's a good question. I remember there being some question about whether he had actually had a license for a handgun at the time of his possum rampage, but there was a suggestion that the Mayor, his old Chief, called in a favor with the Sheriff's Department, and then he suddenly had a license.

At least that's the way I heard it told at the time.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 7, 09 11:16 AM
As a resident of Westhampton Beach it really concerns me that our police officers have nothing better to do than break into each others lockers and steal each others fire arms and move them to a dangerous place. aren't these people supposed to be protecting us? Maybe they should be more concerned about naked men breaking into peoples houses in the middle of the night near the elementary school! If they have that much free time and nothing else better to do why are our taxes paying them let SHPD ...more
By august_cutie17 (2), Westhampton Beach on Nov 10, 09 1:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
And your thinking SHTPD will do this for free???, (your SHT tax bill will double) You can bet the cost would be about the same .... maybe more. With the best case possibility of there being one sector car in the village plus surounding areas ( Quiogue / air base housing ).... and even that car would be the first car to leave the area when the other areas need a back-up.
By T.J. (31), WHB on Nov 10, 09 8:49 AM
Let's see -- wasn't "T.J." outed as one T.J. "Jeff" Speer in a related thread earlier this month? And I learned from the Beach Blogger last week that Officer Speer is the president of the Westhampton Beach PBA.

So his alarmist comment must be taken in context, just as every union head's ridiculously collective self-serving comments must be evaluated.

"T.J." disingenuously fails to take into account that should Westhampton Beach disband its police department, including its duplicated ...more
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 10, 09 11:02 AM
1 member liked this comment
Get 'um Frank!!!
nice call.
By North of Highway (280), Westhampton Beach on Nov 10, 09 12:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Alas, the return of T.J. (Speer). A bit of advice: instead of trying to play PBA pres or policeman, go back to your sector car slumber and your pastrami sandwich. You and your stooges have done enough damage to the WHBPD already.

Let us not forget that T.J (Speer) was rumored to have organized a protest of the charges brought against the dirty officers, Breutsch and Pesapane, to take place at the November village board meeting. What message does that send to the village? It says that a ...more
By Tom Selleck (8), Sag Harbor on Nov 10, 09 2:04 PM
Not everything was seen and heard before Teller became mayor believe me, I know firsthand. Dean has favorites and one of them has brought nothing but negativity to the force. That person is not Speer either. At least he doesn't profile people.
By southern4eva (7), Raleigh on Dec 31, 09 2:02 PM
How can these officers ever be believed in any case of theirs that goes to trial. A defence attorney will bring up the IA case.
By beachgirl978 (1), Westhampton Beach on Nov 10, 09 7:49 PM
Those particular officers under suspension will always have that cloud hanging over them, so the Village needs to get rid of them both. Not only is their credibility shot, but it might make some of the others walk the straight and narrow for a change -- if the Village doesn't decide to disband the entire Police Department and let Tony Tenaglia have a "come to Jesus" meeting with the entire rank and file before the Town PD absorbs them
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 10, 09 7:57 PM
Wasn't T.J.Speer named 2009 officer of the year for WHB police Dept ??? by Chief Dean , and in 2008 officer of the year was Joe Pesapane .... amazing !!
By WHB65 (3), WHB on Nov 11, 09 10:05 PM
Is that true? I find that incredible.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Nov 13, 09 12:55 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Pedro Salazar (22), Center Moriches on Nov 12, 09 2:30 PM