A civil liberties advocacy group is suing Suffolk police, claiming the department did not provide requested information on the identification, arrest and detention of immigrant students accused of gang involvement.
The action, filed Monday in State Supreme Court in Suffolk County by the New York Civil Liberties Union, seeks “to compel the SCPD to respond” to a wide-ranging information request made in August.
The original request, filed by advocacy groups under the Freedom of Information Law, sought details on the number of individuals the department identified as gang members leading to school suspensions in the South Country school district; all agreements between the local police department and federal law enforcement agencies seeking to apprehend and deport immigrants; and the department’s policy directives on “how to recognize gang membership or gang activity,” among other documents.
The Suffolk Police Department has not commented on the lawsuit. In previous statements, officials said the department followed strict protocols regarding identification of gang membership that could not be disclosed.
The advocacy group’s inquiry originated last year amid a local and federal law enforcement push to arrest or detain teenagers who could face criminal charges or be placed in deportation proceedings. Those agencies aimed to crack down on gang activity following multiple incidents of brutal violence linked to MS-13, a criminal street gang with links to El Salvador.
Immigrant teens and their advocates in the region have said that some of them were apprehended on baseless allegations of gang involvement and were placed in secure detention facilities in violation of legal precedent on the treatment of those minors.
The NYCLU contends that, after eight months, the department “has not produced any documents or provided a substantive response of any kind in clear violation” of the Freedom of Information Law, whose provisions seek to give the public access to documents and statistics related to governmental decisions.
“Eight months after filing our records requests, New Yorkers still have no answers from the Suffolk police about its role in the Trump administration’s immigration dragnet,” NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman said in a statement that referred to President Donald Trump and to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “During that time ICE rounded up dozens of Long Island teens only to later concede they pose no threat.”
The civil liberties organization and one of its California affiliates have filed two other federal class-action lawsuits against federal agencies about their detention of immigrant children, leading to the release of some immigrant minors after judges reviewed the evidence in those cases.