The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Justice Department Probe Examines Treatment of Latinos by Suffolk Police

By Rob Waters on October 6, 2009 - 11:10 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

The U.S. Justice Department has begun an investigation into allegations of “discriminatory policing” by the Suffolk County (N.Y.) Police Department over how officers responded to reports of crimes against Latinos.

The investigation, announced Monday, will be conducted by the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the local U.S. attorney’s office. It comes about nine months after the agencies began looking into a complaint that the Suffolk police force failed to adequately investigate crimes against Latinos and discouraged them from seeking assistance. The complaint was filed shortly after the November killing of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant fatally stabbed in the town of Patchogue in what authorities say was a hate crime.

“This is a civil, pattern or practice investigation that will seek to determine whether there are systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law by members of the SCPD,” Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar said in a statement announcing the investigation.

The investigation begins one month after the release of Southern Poverty Law Center’s Report, “Climate of Fear,” which examined in detail a years-long pattern of violence and abuse directed at Latino immigrants in Suffolk County, which occupies the eastern portion of Long Island.

The report showed that the Lucero murder, while the worst of the violence so far, was hardly an isolated incident, and that Latino immigrants were regularly harassed, taunted, and pelted with objects hurled from cars. Some reported being beaten with baseball bats and other objects. Adding to immigrants’ fears was the furious rhetoric of nativist groups such as the now-defunct Sachem Quality of Life, whose longtime spokesman regularly referred to immigrants as “terrorists.”

The report also found that among those fueling the anti-immigrant fire have been many of the very people who are charged with protecting the residents of Suffolk County — local politicians and law enforcement officials. One county legislator said that if he saw an influx of Latino day laborers in his town, “we’ll be out with baseball bats.” Another said that if Latino workers were to gather in a local neighborhood, “I would load my gun and start shooting, period.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer told The New York Times that he welcomed the federal investigation. It “gives us a chance to dispel the myths that we didn’t investigate thoroughly and completely any complaints that have come to our attention.”

Dormer acknowledged that his force may have missed a pattern of racially motivated crime against Latinos in the county in recent years but said that was because some crimes were apparently not reported to the police, the Times said.

The investigation was welcomed by LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Manhattan-based national advocacy group that filed the initial complaint with the Justice Department last November. “Hopefully they can find out what’s gone wrong and determine why there seems to be a failure by police … and Latinos will be able to walk the streets again with confidence that the police are treating them fairly,” Foster Maer, a senior staff attorney for the organization, told Newsday.

Miyar, the Justice Department spokesman, told Newsday that investigations of this sort usually take 12 to 18 months. If the investigation finds wrongdoing, the police department could reach a settlement with the federal agency to change policies and practices or be forced to do so through a court-ordered consent decree. Over the past 10 years, Miyar said, the Justice Department has launched about two to three such investigations every year.

  • Dakotahgeo

    Hi Barbara!!!
    Just tacos? Heh heh heh. All Hispanic/Latino foods are good. And I haven’t even mentioned Scandinavian and Middle European foods.
    I hate to spoil our naysayers’ opinions regarding heritage and culture but THIS is what makes us who we are! And there is nothing better than food and good visiting to bring people together! Different cultures and their offerings are fantastic!
    Cranky people, stay home! LOLOL

  • Barbara

    Variety is the spice of life. Just look at how NYC would be without the falafel, gyros, and pasta. Tacos won’t change the country!

  • beholder

    America needs to assimilate Latin American values — let’s not forget the destinies of north and south America have forever been entwined. Why beat back the origin of so much Americana: the cowboy mythos, the culture, lively spiritualism and colorful language and lifestyle of the American South and Southwest. We are not a single-race nation, nor should we ever seek to displace reason over fears of discrimination. But we have a problem in America that needs to be addressed. It is not a fairly minor point of polity. It is the core of America: all of us are immigrants. Let us think as the Native American Indian on land not as a gift from our ancestors, but as a present to our children.

  • Tess

    crime like birth and death does not discriminate — it crosses all colors and races. the difference is which crimes and criminals are sensationalized.
    as for the comment made by john — it is not what one wears that should make someone suspicious. a clear example is the current corrupt corporation/wall street who swindled a lot of home owners.

  • carrisima


  • Barbara

    It is not the illegals who are at fault. It is corporate greed that moved our businesses out of the US and laid off hundreds of workers and operations overseas. Walmart is now in China. What do we all make of that? Or our steel industry shut down here because the Japanese took it over or the recent debacle with our car industry. It is not the foreigners who should blame or SCAPEGOAT! It is our own who need a tongue lashing. Those CEO’s who just will never make enough money because they have the disease of “MORE”.

    See Michael Moore’s film Capitalism, A Love Story. It is no story. Most of us don’t have adaquate health care or other services (police and fire have gotton cut in most communities but it is NOT the illegals fault nor is it our President’s fault. The fault lies in our apathy, our unwillingness to see the truth when it is right in front of us. Easier to sweep it all under a rug and hope it goes away that confront it clearly and in the right way; through legal means and in the voting booth.

  • Snprlax

    “I just wish they would start looking into the very poor treatment of U.S. citizens that can’t find any work because of ILLEGAL ALIENS instead!”

    Joe’s been listening to a fat junkie again. Instead of getting facts.

    It’s getting harder and harder for illegals to get regular (i.e. paycheck) jobs because of increased federal regulation.

    The feds now run an instant check on new hires.

    Illegals are still working day labor
    and other under-the-counter jobs, which most Americans don’t want.

    Unless you want one, Joe. Go knock yourself out.

  • Dakotahgeo

    Maya Otomi, thank you!!! I am honored by your remarks but I won’t rest on my “laurels,” heh heh heh. I have a little story to relate to you… LOLOL. 26 months ago, a young Hispanic (Honduran) undocumented worker walked into our church. I think he knew 3-4 words of English (this angel from heaven was so funny and gutsy!) and since I had spent 6 months in Chile and Argentina in 2005, EVERYbody thought I would understand him. Long story short, I “adopted” him, he moved into my home, worked TWO jobs, worked his hiney off and moved out two weeks ago on his own. He is getting married in December to a wonderful Mexican gal in Mexico and I could not be a prouder Papa, lolol. So, I guess I have blessed beyond two lifetimes in my work. He is now safely “home,” meaning not in the USA and he will always be mi hijo! Just thought you might enjoy that little tidbit in life. Dakotahgeo, M.Div., Pastor/Chaplain

  • Maya Otomi

    Dakotahgeo, wow! Terrific analysis! Bravo for your passion.

    If more people took the time to dig for the facts beyond what the local media feeds us, their political and personal perspective might change enough to make them not only more productive but more humane.

    You are right on with the NAFTA/CAFTA points. Funny how so many good citizens never complained for years and years when all the undocumented people poured into this country and began cleaning their homes, watching their children, cutting their lawns, building their houses and generally working at anything to make an honest living while supporting the very ones that now do everything to terrorize immigrant communities.

    I’m with you. Work is sacred and honorable. That is the value instilled in me by my undocumented immigrant family. I am now 64 and probably will never retire. Even after I am no longer able to work at the job I have, I hope for the clarity and energy to continue struggling for the justice that my beloved community deserves.

  • Eugene Williams

    Well If it’s funding we need then why not follow the example of Chicago. If a couple of kid murder a kid then obama will send someone to give that area a half a million dollars. That is what i heard anyways.

    I am going to look at that article about homeless and hungry men, women and children in the USA and try and figure out why they didn’t get the half of million..

    In the mean time I wonder how much more of the United States Land we owe to China because we don’t have the money to pay all this money we keep borrowing. Oh wait. Americans aren’t paying 50 cents to the dollar in taxes yet. Okay I guess we still have the country?

  • Dakotahgeo

    I am a WASP and I beg to differ with you holier-than-thou non-Hispanic/Latino/black/any other color people! The problems started with white people who gouged employers for higher, higher, higher wages, and cut your work ethics when you did not get the increases.
    The Black/Hispanic/Latino people are going out, finding work, working hard when they DO find the jobs, while the white people moan, and groan, and sigh, and cry, and do anything BUT work or try to find a job.
    I am 65, retired, worked all my life, and in the last two weeks (JUST to prove you white whiners wrong!) applied for three part-time jobs. I was hired at ALL three!!! It took me all of 1.5 hours to do the paperwork!
    I do not like to talk to anyone in India or any other country when I have computer problems but by golly, WE are the ones at fault for this! Two major items that should NEVER have passed: NAFTA and CAFTA… robbing the poor countries to make our corporations rich! The only reason the so-called ‘illegal’ aliens are in this country is that we forced the Hispanic farmers off their farms when they could no long make a living.
    Personally, I would revoke every person’s citizenship who whines about “having it soooooo tough!,” and legalize all undocumented immigrants at the stroke of a signature on the paper to make it law!
    Now shut up and go find jobs… there are thousand’s of them out there. Geeeezzz Louise! Ugh!
    PS: John and Joe, quit complaining and either find jobs or take up knitting. You are being watched!
    PPS: You good folks in Suffolk County who are combating the police and injustice problems…my hat is off to you! Don’t give up until the mess is cleaned up!


    To Joe Oct.6
    If you can’t find job get Educated, people with education
    have future in this Nation, you dont

  • Barbara

    Throw “gay” and crimes of arson against the community into the hopper! Crimes against gay communities seem to be swept under the rug in Suffolk County.

  • John

    I think that just maybe if the Latinos who are being treated “unfairly” would stop walking around like thugs then maybe just maybe they wouldn’t be discriminated against. Also let’s not forget, and you all know the truth that most crimes in this country are caused by minorities then I can understand the mistreatment.If I was a cop and I see a Crown Vic on 24’s I would be suspicious if that vehicle was just cruising around in a neighborhood that they normally aren’t always seen in. In other words if you are tired of being stereo typed then stop stereo typing yourself.

    This country has fallen on it’s backside because of you all that are so worried about people being treated unfairly, why don’t you start policing your own before policing others. When that happens we will probably not having this problem of certain groups being treated unfairly. Problem solved.

  • joe

    I just wish they would start looking into the very poor treatment of U.S. citizens that can’t find any work because of ILLEGAL ALIENS instead!

  • George Sidoti

    Living in Suffolk County for many years, I have witnessed many crimes against many people. To combat the hatred and violence aimed at all people, it is important that all facets of the community take responsibility.

    The President has called for more education and keeping night centers open for youngsters to frequent. Great idea…The problem is funding. Who is going to pay the needed personnel to supervise and maintain the program?

    The federal Department of Education spends very little on education and instructs local/state governments to pick up the tab. If President Obama believes there should be additional services provided by our school system, and I agree, please show us how to pay the necessary/mandatory costs of operation.

    Many of the problems existing within Suffolk is not due to people being discriminate against other people, it is often a matter of funding. We, living within Suffolk County, are drowning in taxes and are looking to have our taxes cut, not have any taxes added.

    If a program is put forward by any investigating committing at any government level, I hope that governmental agency/authority displays in the report how to pay for additional improvements/programs…Often costs are not discussed within reports.


    I wish you luck and God speed. I know this to be a fact, in my own town. Thanks SPLC for investigation the Juvenile facility in Harrison County. Though I never had a child there. Still, they are someone’s kids and didn’t deserve to be abused. Most children who act out and get in trouble, come from abusive homes. Abusing them while their were in lock only created criminals for regular prisons, when they become adults. So thanks SPLC for the ones you did save by making the Juvenile facility clean up their act, now that they know somebody is watching.