Thursday, April 30, 2015
Twenty-one Latinos in Long Island, New York filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that multiple officers in the Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) systematically targeted them and other Latinos for unfounded, race-based stops after which they were either robbed or given unjustified traffic citations. They also charge the SCPD needlessly permitted this practice to continue within its ranks for 10 years, a crime spree that left local Latinos too afraid to drive their cars, leave their homes or interact with the police.
This lawsuit comes a year after SCPD Sgt. Scott Greene was arrested after being caught on camera taking money from a Latino driver he had pulled over during an undercover officer sting operation. Make the Road New York and LatinoJustice PRLDEF soon learned from dozens of victims who had been too afraid, or thought it pointless, to complain about widespread police criminality. The victims claimed that one or more officers would, in clear violation of police rules, get a hold of the victim’s wallet and then return it a few minutes later with one or two hundred dollars missing.
Attorneys from LatinoJustice PRLDEF and law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP, working on a pro bono basis, are representing the plaintiffs. “People of color should be able to walk and drive the streets of Suffolk County without fear of being harassed and robbed by SCPD officers,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The Constitution and civil rights laws of this country demand nothing less from any law enforcement agency, and it is based upon those laws that we have commenced this action.”
According to the plaintiffs, any Latino in plain view was fair game. Most plaintiffs were stopped and robbed while driving, others while sitting in a parked vehicle and still others while walking down the street. A few had their home invaded by police officers.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF requested that the District Attorney expand the investigation beyond Sgt. Greene. The DA has not replied to the request and in fact has only indicted Sgt. Greene in the robberies.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF has requested numerous times that the Department of Justice investigate SCPD for crimes against Latinos, but to date those requests have been largely ignored.