Continuing their probe into allegations of discriminatory policing, U.S. Department of Justice officials have interviewed top Suffolk police officials, gone on ride-alongs with officers and met with dozens of Latino advocates and victims of crime.
Advocates and police say a team of Justice Department investigators, along with representatives from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District and outside consultants, spent a week in Suffolk earlier this month holding meetings in Patchogue, Huntington and Farmingville.
“It’s good if they try to do some investigations; it helps the community,” said Matilde Parada, director of Human Solidarity, a Farmingville-based group. “But I don’t know how far they can go.”
A Department of Justice spokesperson declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation. The joint civil investigation was launched in September following complaints that Suffolk police failed to adequately investigate crimes against Latinos. The complaint was filed shortly after the November 2008 killing of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, in Patchogue.
Investigators met with Fundacion Lucero de America, a nonprofit in Patchogue, urging it to spread the word about a meeting for crime victims. About 20 to 25 people showed up at the meeting a few days later, according to one attendee. In Farmingville, about a dozen people showed up at a similar meeting, Parada said.
Investigators told the Family Service League, which runs a day laborer site in Huntington, about a meeting at a local church there, said Lori Anne Brennan, division director for vocational services. “I don’t know if the guys felt comfortable enough to go because it is the Justice Department, but we definitely encouraged them to go,” Brennan said.
Suffolk police union officials say they were asked about policies and the classification of crimes.
PBA vice president Noel Digerolamo said he told investigators he believed a 2007 directive to arrest all unlicensed drivers led to the aggressive pursuit of undocumented immigrants.
Police Commissioner Richard Dormer called such allegations “absolutely false.”
Dormer said investigators told him they would be back in a couple of months. “We want to get this thing behind us,” he said.