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

DOJ Says Suffolk County, N.Y., Police Need Improvements on Hate Crimes

By Mark Potok on September 14, 2011 - 3:38 pm, Posted in Anti-Immigrant, Anti-Latino, Hate Crime

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter (pdf) to officials yesterday suggesting non-mandatory improvements in the way that the Suffolk County, N.Y., Police Department (SFPD) investigates hate crimes and other practices. The preliminary findings letter was part of a DOJ investigation of the department’s “patterns and practices” in the wake of the 2008 murder of immigrant Marcelo Lucero by a gang of white toughs.

Lucero’s murder by teenagers who had regularly engaged in the ethnic hunting parties they termed “beaner-jumping” shone a light on a community of immigrants who felt they were under siege, subjected to anti-immigrant violence and largely ignored or shunted aside by the police department. It also brought out the way that leading officials in the county had regularly demonized Latino immigrants.

The DOJ’s preliminary findings comported closely with those of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which published a September 2009 report on the situation entitled “Climate of Fear: Latino Immigrants in Suffolk County, N.Y.” Our report described not only how large numbers of Latinos in Suffolk County were subjected to hate crimes and other abuse, but also how many Latinos felt that SFPD officers ignored or belittled them, often declining to take reports after complaints were made. It also discussed the role of hate groups in the country and, especially, high-level public officials in contributing to an atmosphere of anti-immigrant hate — but those areas were outside the scope of the DOJ investigation.

The DOJ’s investigation of SCPD is not over. But it’s not known when it will produce a final report that could result in mandatory SCPD remedial actions.

Generally, the preliminary findings letter found that SCPD needed clearer explanations of hate crimes for officers; more bilingual officers and materials; a process to make it easier to report police misconduct; a system to make it easier for community organizations to report purported hate crimes by immigrants afraid to talk to the police directly; audits of hate crime investigations and random integrity tests of the police misconduct reporting system; more training; better relationships with the Latino community; and a way of regularly updating complainants of the status of the investigation in their cases.

  • james

    mr bellone, remind ex county excutive steve levy to give the cassette to internal revenue service. they know about the tape. it would be in the best interest for the goverment to see you have done your job cleaning up the mess.

  • ModerateMike

    The DOJ may have useful advice for the SCPD on how to handle criminal bigotry, but even if the police officers genuinely want to implement it, they will probably find it difficult to get the immigrant community to cooperate without comprehensive immigration reform. With the Secure Communities initiative having resulted in the deporation of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had no prior criminal record, I would expect immigrants to be very reluctant to have any kind of contact with the police. And for some immigrants, deportation is as good as a death sentence. Just ask the family of Benito Zaldivar, a Salvadoran immigrant who fled to the United States seeking asylum because gang members had threatened to harm his family if he did not join them. Since the gang had not actually harmed either him or his family, however, his asylum request was ultimately denied, and he was deported to El Salvador. Two months later, he was murdered. You can read about it here:

    But even if people are unmoved by this story, perhaps they should ask themselves this: What is good about being afraid to talk to the police? If your child were abducted, and the only witness to the crime were an undocumented immigrant, wouldn’t you want him or her to come forward?

    You don’t have to agree with my overall position on immigration to see the problem here. If we truly want our communities to be secure, then we need to start thinking seriously about whether our enforcement-only immigration policy is having some unintended consequences.

  • Jonas Rand

    The police beat up, harass, intimidate, and brutalize people and strike fear in entire neighborhoods and communities. They act like the Mafia. The government allows them to do, in essence, what they want without accountability or transparency. Police also do not have to undergo sensitivity training programs, which legitimizes and normalizes their contemptible behavior (such as racism, sexism, brutality, etc). Peace Not Police !

  • Mary

    These hate groups in Suffolk and elsewhere should direct their anger at their fellow “caucausian businesses” that hire illegals. It would be a step in the right direction. For if these businesses had to pay US citizens, the same rate of pay,they would not work at these low wages. They would demand higher pay. Then all these people would have to pay higher prices for goods and services, and that they would object to. If you get better wages, your fruit,vegies, whatever these companies make/grow or sell, would cost the consumer more, they would complain because of the rate increases. You can’t have it both ways. It’s time the consumers know that these businesses who hire illegals be made to follow the law. I know when I got a job on L.I. many years ago, I had to fill out a form, show proof of citizenship – so it is there in place, but needs to be enforced all over.