East Hampton Police: Have They Gone Too Far?

by Adam Bertrand · May 27, 2008

We may have cursed the East Hampton Police Department (EHPD) under our breath in the past over a parking violation on a holiday weekend, but until Saturday, I could honestly say that as soon as I left Manorville and got onto the Sunrise Highway, I'd feel safe and at peace. The Hamptons' various police departments used to maintain a safe environment without being unreasonably nit-picky, but something has changed. Perhaps the war hungry Bush era has trickled down to local weekend-home town security, but the vibes I'm starting to get while strolling around the Hamptons is becoming less bucolic New Englandy and more Facist-statey.

This began with the speed limit change to 35 on all major roads, forcing us to drive like the little old lady we silently condemn. What's more, because some people haven't followed the ridiculous alteration, upon entering Southampton, we are now greeted by a horrifying sign featuring a life-sized cop car and la dramatically lunging, speed gun-equipped cop, which reads "SPEED LIMIT 35 AND HEAVILY PATROLLED." Okay guys, we get it... you are on a power trip. May I point out the speed limit is actually faster on the back roads than it is on the highway? Yesterday, Sebastian, a young gentlemen who'd grown up in Southampton, told me that his father was pulled over for doing 2 MPH. He has never seen the police department act this unreasonably in his entire life.

I can deal with slower traffic... but last night, the most atrocious displays of power gluttony took place all over East Hampton village. While enjoying a glass of wine and picking out a piece of artwork shot by our friend Steven Klein at his show opening at Vered gallery, chanting ensued from the front room: "LEAVE HER ALONE! LEAVE HER ALONE! LEAVE HER ALONE!" Well, you get the point. It turned out that the police had begun hassling the gallery owner for serving wine and liquor without a proper liquor license. First of all, wine and cheese gallery openings and book signings have been a staple of Hamptons' life ever since Jackson Pollack. So how dare the cops come in with bullet proof vests and humiliate shop owners (I am not exaggerating with the vests.) And instead of simply fining the gallery owner, which would have gotten the point across just fine, especially after creating such a scene, they arrested her! Families with their young children gathered around in the parking lot behind Waldbaum's watching as they threw well-dressed middle-aged women --guilty of nothing more than pouring a glass of wine to consenting adults looking to buy some art, into the back of barred police cars. Unfortunately this took place at more than one gallery last night.

What next? I predict (or shall I go far enough to say that I recommend?) a backlash. I think it is up the citizens of the Hamptons to write to their towns' offices and tell them how appalled we are with this sudden change of police mentality. We need to reclaim Hamptons living for the citizen. After all, this is where we have our summer homes. Where we go to relax. Can this be done when one may be arrested (to quote Edie Beale) "for wearing red shoes on a Thursday?"

Written by Eric Spear