Justice Dept. report criticizes Suffolk's hate crimes unit

PATCHOGUE - The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a report to County Executive Steve Levy (R-Suffolk) this week, urging him to improve the hate crimes unit and modify policies that affect Latinos.

Activist groups such as the Long Island Immigrant Alliance welcome the preliminary report. They've long claimed Suffolk police don't take hate crimes against Latinos seriously.

"We've complained and stated often that oftentimes, victims of hate crimes were saying that the police dismissed these reports as 'kids being kids,'" says Luis Valenzuela, of the Long Island Alliance for Immigrants.

The DOJ began investigating Suffolk police in Sept. 2009, less than a year after the widely reported murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, who was attacked by a group of minors in Patchogue.

The DOJ's 28-page report also singled out the police department's policy to question anyone who's been arrested for a crime regarding his or her immigration status if there is reason to believe they're in this country illegally.

"This policy is too vague and offers little or no guidance on how to determine whether there is reason to believe that an individual is an undocumented person," the letter reads. Justice Dept.'s Letter to Suffolk County

DOJ launches probe of Suffolk police

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