More Latino drivers say they were robbed in police stops
The number of Latino men who have come forward to tell investigators that they were stopped by a Suffolk County police officer who took money from them has grown from two to at least 13, according to advocates.
The accounts of alleged misconduct come as Sgt. Scott A. Greene's case is due Thursday in Central Islip's First District Court. Greene has pleaded not guilty to charges of petty larceny and official misconduct following a sting operation in which he was caught on camera taking a $100 bill from a car driven by an undercover Latino officer.
It is not clear who the 13 men have implicated in their allegations.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota unveiled the charges against Greene in January. Wednesday, his office would only say that the investigation is ongoing. Greene's attorney could not be reached.
The new witnesses show that "there seems to be a pattern" of police stops in which immigrants were frisked and had cash taken from their vehicles in neighborhoods such as Coram, Farmingville, Gordon Heights and Medford, said Irma Solis, of the advocacy group, Make The Road New York. "We have helped identify right now 13 individuals, all Latino men," including the two men who originally complained, Solis said.
"Right now they have been giving their statements and cooperating with the investigation."
Several of those immigrants, who spoke to Newsday under condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal, have said they were robbed in the traffic stops of anywhere from a day's pay to several hundreds of dollars.
The case surfaced weeks after a December settlement in a federal probe over discriminatory policing against Suffolk police. That investigation started with the 2008 hate killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero, attacked by a group of teens. Advocates alleged police had been ignoring hate incidents.
Speaking Wednesday at Stony Brook University, Joselo Lucero, the victim's brother, drew parallels to the traffic-stops case, saying it is proof that immigrants still are mistreated. "I met seven people" who "are targets of the police officer . . . taking money away from them," he said.
He said immigrants need others to speak out to bring an end to discriminatory practices. "I am not preaching about forgiveness, because forgiveness doesn't change the past. You have to take action," Lucero said. "If you are a witness . . . you should say something."