Police: Chief went to theft suspect's home
Hours after Suffolk County Police Chief of Department James Burke's gun belt, ammunition and handcuffs were snatched from his department-issued SUV last year, he went to the home of one of the suspected thieves, law enforcement records show.
Burke appeared at the Smithtown residence of Christopher Loeb, who was on probation for an April 2012 grand larceny conviction, in the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, to identify the items that police say were taken from his vehicle, according to the records. Police documents say Burke's SUV was broken into in St. James about 12:30 a.m. the same day.
Suffolk County rules and procedures say police supervisors and top brass should refrain from participating in routine matters and should allow subordinates to carry out those functions. Supervisors are "not expected to engage in routine enforcement activities except in a command or supervisor capacity," according to the "Standards of Supervision" section of the police manual.
A law enforcement expert who declined to be named because his organization has ties to the Suffolk County Police Department said a chief who is the victim of a crime should not show up at the crime scene.
"There is kind of a general philosophy that you do not allow police officers, who have been victimized by an offender, to have access to that offender," the expert said.
Suffolk police and Burke did not respond to questions about his actions on Dec. 14 in which he appeared at the home with probation officers already there. Suffolk Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider declined to comment.
A Suffolk law enforcement source with more than 10 years on the job -- and who is familiar with the Loeb case -- said Burke arriving at the scene where probation officers were is unusual. "In my experience, the chief has never gone to do an arrest or visit a crime scene," the source said. "A detective would be called, but not the chief."
Under similar circumstances, police won't bring a victim of a crime and the suspect together, said a department representative.
After the crime is reported to police, the victim would be called to the precinct once their item is recovered and after their property gets invoiced and identified, the department representative said.
Police and prosecutors say Loeb, 26, and Gabriel Miguelez, 36, of Lindenhurst, took a duffel bag containing Burke's gun belt, ammunition, handcuffs, cigars and other items from the GMC Yukon.
According to court records, Loeb told Fourth Precinct detectives that Burke's Yukon was unlocked when they took the bag. Police spokesman Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said earlier this year that Burke said his car was locked.
The police manual section on "Command Discipline Procedure" says failure to lock a department-issued car is a violation.
Burke notified the department and Police Commissioner Edward Webber about the loss of the gun belt and ammunition, Fallon said earlier this year. Burke also, as required, filed an "internal correspondence" fully explaining the circumstances of the loss.
Both Loeb and Miguelez were at Loeb's home when police arrived on Dec. 14, law enforcement records and a Loeb family member said. Loeb ran out the back door, was apprehended and was taken back into the home, court records show.
Loeb is scheduled to appear July 9 before Suffolk County Judge Martin Efman on 29 counts related to breaking into more than a dozen cars in St. James.
The Suffolk County district attorney's office indicted Loeb in December on counts that include fourth-degree grand larceny, fourth- and fifth-degree possession of stolen property, seventh-degree possession of a controlled substance and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon. He has been held at Suffolk County Jail on $500,000 bond.
Miguelez, a first-time offender, faced 23 counts in the same indictment but was released from jail on Jan. 30 after posting $10,000 bond. He later agreed to a plea deal. The Suffolk County district attorney's office said that a judge set Loeb's bail at $500,000 because of his previous felony convictions.
Loeb's court-appointed attorney, Toni Marie Angeli, declined to comment.
A special prosecutor, Queens Assistant District Attorney Peter Crusco, has been assigned "to avoid any resulting appearance of impropriety," Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Michael Miller said earlier this year. Crusco also did not want to comment.
Burke was assigned to the Suffolk district attorney's office before his appointment as chief of department.