Yaphank - (WALK) The Suffolk police will revise its policies for interacting with members of minority communities, after reaching a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The 27-page agreement released Tuesday caps a four-year investigation following the death of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue.
Lucero, 37 (photo), was stabbed to death after being harassed by a group local teens in November of 2008. His death was labeled a hate crime. Justice Department agents found other reports of violence against Latinos in Suffolk were not fully investigated, inspiring a probe by the DOJ's Civil Rights Division in 2009.
According to terms of the settlement Suffolk is provide services to Latinos and other minority communities "that are equitable, respectful, and free of unlawful bias." The objective will be met by more intensive training of police officers, meeting more regularly with community leaders, and by assigning bilingual officers to serve as liaisons in Suffolk's seven police precincts, according to county officials.
The settlement requires complaints of discrimination to be reported to the SCPD's Internal Affairs Bureau for investigation within 48 hours. Officers who engage in discrimination will be subject to disciplinary action, criminal prosecution, or may be denied promotion.
"When people feel they cannot turn to the police for protection, they have lost one of our most basic rights, the right to feel safe in one's community," said Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
To assure uniform standards of police work for all residents of Suffolk, the DOJ ordered all sworn SCPD officers to receive recurring training about cultural sensitivity, bais-free policing and hate crimes investigation.
Reports about discriminatory policing, hate crimes and traffic-stop data concerning minority communities must be reported to the Justice Department, who will monitor the department for compliance.