DOJ TO SUFFOLK COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT: REVISE POLICING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES AFFECTING LATINOS

A complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice in November 2008 called upon DOJ to formally investigate whether the Suffolk County Police Department was operated in a discriminatory manner by ignoring reports of bias crimes from the Latino community, and utterly failing to take any action to protect local Latino residents who were being repeatedly targeted and attacked solely because of their ethnicity.

When members of the “Caucasian Crew,” a group of white Long Island teens  who were subsequently convicted of attacking and killing Marcello Lucero on November 8, 2008, admitted to having engaged in “beaner jumping” – i.e., looking for Mexicans to beat and rob – as a weekly pastime for the preceding year and a half, it begged two questions: how could the Suffolk Police Department not know about it, and if they did know about it, why hadn’t they done anything to stop it?

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice sent Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy a 28-page letter report which details the deficiencies in the manner that the Suffolk County operates its police department, and which the DOJ believes resulted in the discriminatory mistreatment of Latinos.  The DOJ concluded that “[t]he tendency to brush off attacks as ‘just kids being kids’ fails to recognize the severity of criminal conduct in which minors may engage, as seen from the murder of Marcelo Lucero, whose attackers were high school-aged youths.”

The DOJ “strongly recommend[ed],” among other things, that the SCPD revise the use of roadblocks in the Latino community, ensure adequate training for officers, and take significant steps to lessen officer bias against Latinos.

DOJ’s investigation continues to determine whether the County violated the civil rights of its Latino residents.

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