Noose in Southampton Prompts Policy

Posted on 20 November 2008

 A hanging noose, discovered just before Halloween on a Long Island Power Authority tower near the Long Pond Greenbelt just off the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike, has prompted the Southampton Town Board to create a formal policy on how the town, and its police force, investigate hate crimes in Southampton.

The noose was first discovered around October 27, hanging over 20 feet off the ground. Quickly, e-mails about its existence spread, including a number that were sent to members of the town’s anti-bias task force.

The noose has since been taken down, according to Southampton Town Police Chief James Overton, who said his department has been investigating the incident since it was first reported to them.

“It was a noose and we found it very offensive,” said Chief Overton on Monday. He added that whether a crime occurred remains to be seen as police continue to investigate the incident, which Overton noted occurred in a remote area.

“We are still investigating,” he said. “We have different units working on this.”

According to legislation adopted on November 1, 2008, the state penal law has been updated to classify the displaying of a noose as aggravated harassment in the first degree when the intent is “to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, because of a belief or perception regarding such a person’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.”

The law covers whether the noose is etched, painted, drawn, or otherwise placed on any building, public or private.

The noose incident and investigation was discussed at a November 3 Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force meeting, which was attended by Southampton Town Councilwoman and Sag Harbor resident Anna Throne-Holst.

On November 12, at the request of the task force and in response to a lack of a formal policy on how hate or bias crimes are investigated and when the town board is informed, Throne-Holst introduced a resolution seeking those very guidelines. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

The resolution requests that Chief Overton develop a formal procedure for the investigation of such a crime and that police inform the town board when such an investigation begins. Overton has been asked to deliver a policy to the board by December 12.

“We need to have a way to deal with such events and because we didn’t have a policy like that it was my request that the town be informed,” said Throne-Holst on Monday. 

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