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SCPD Commits to Improving Latino Community Policing

Agreement with the Justice Department comes five years after the killing of Marcelo Lucero.

A memorial ceremony at the site in Patchogue where Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death in 2008. (Patch file photo)
A memorial ceremony at the site in Patchogue where Marcelo Lucero was stabbed to death in 2008. (Patch file photo)
The Suffolk County Police Department has committed to "significant changes in how it engages the Latino community" under a tentative settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday. 

The Justice Department began an investigation of the department in 2009 following the killing of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was attacked by a group of teenagers in Patchogue in November 2008. 

That investigation "focused on discriminatory policing allegations, including claims that SCPD discouraged Latino victims from filing complaints and cooperating with the police and failed to investigate crimes and hate-crime incidents involving Latinos," the Justice Department said in a statement. 

Under the settlement, which must be approved by the county legislature, the police department is required to "to ensure that it polices equitably, respectfully, and free of unlawful bias."

The agreement also calls for enhanced training and investigation of allegations of hate crimes and bias incidents, better access to police services for those with limited English proficiency and strengthened outreach by the police department in Latino communities. 

The Justice Department had already recommended several reforms to improve policing in Latino communities in 2011 and the county instituted a number of them. The agreement announced Tuesday "memorializes those recommendations" and commits the police department to the changes, the Justice Department said.

“All residents of Suffolk County deserve full and unbiased police protection, regardless of national origin, race, or citizenship status," Loretta Lynch, United States attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. "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." 

Lynch praised the county and the police department for cooperating with the investigation and working to "ensure fairness and equal treatment for all."

The Justice Department will monitor compliance with the agreement, which ends only after the police department has substantially complied with all of the requirements of the agreement for at least one year. 


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