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Update: Town Board says police encounter not ‘a racial issue’

REPORTER FILE PHOTO Police Chief Jim Read is looking into a July 18 police call at South Ferry.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO Police Chief Jim Read is looking into a July 18 police call at South Ferry.

Supervisor Jim Dougherty issued a statement Tuesday afternoon on the issue of a police call to South Ferry on July 18:

 “The Town Board in its capacity as Police Commissioners met today with the Chief of Police and Detective Thilberg to discuss the July 18 matter at South Ferry where a Shelter Island policeman approached and had a conversation with a foot passenger disembarking from the ferry. The commissioners made some suggestions regarding procedures to follow in the future in such instances but concluded that there was no evidence of any racial issues.”

Below is the original Reporter post:

Shelter Island Police Chief Jim Read said Tuesday that an incident of an officer questioning a woman at South Ferry on the night of July 18 is under investigation.

According to police reports, the officer responded to a call from the Southampton Police Department regarding a burglary in progress in North Haven, asking to check the Island side of the ferry for suspects. The officer saw a ferry passenger there and questioned her. The Shelter Island Police report initially said no problems were noted.

But a week later, in a letter to the Reporter, Jackie Black identified the passenger as a house guest, returning from a fundraiser in Bridgehampton, who had been waiting for a cab to take her to Ms. Black’s house. The guest reported that the officer asked for identification, and when she responded that she had none, the officer looked in her bag. Finding a business card that identified her as a White House employee, the officer “backed off,” Ms. Black wrote.

She also noted that her friend is African-American.

On the Reporter’s Facebook page, Stephen Fearing asked for more information and Chief Read was in touch saying the incident was being looked into. There is another letter from residents this week on the incident that will be published on Thursday.

The chief said the department has not spoken to the woman. “She hasn’t said anything,” he said, adding that “I want to know if the officer treated her unfairly.”