Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
The brother of an Ecuadoran immigrant, who was attacked and stabbed to death by a gang of teenagers in 2008, called for a stronger response from the Department of Justice, which is currently investigating claims that the Suffolk County Police Department failed to properly investigate, report and track potential hate crimes against the Latino community.
Joselo Lucero told reporters at a press conference Thursday, "I want to know who is going to be accountable for all these crimes."
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice released a letter to County Executive Steve Levy that laid out problems with several police practices, including a rule that allows officers to forego filing police reports when an incident is non-criminal and is deemed a "youth disturbance." The DOJ said that practice could lead to "missing critical patterns of crime," such as in the case of Marcelo Lucero.
The DOJ letter says that after Lucero was killed, other Latino men came forward and alleged they had been attacked by the same youths, including one man who said the teens shot at him with a BB gun on the same night Lucero died.
According to the letter, the man alleged that the police classified the incident a "disturbance."
The Suffolk County Police Department said it couldn’t comment because the alleged reports by the other men were the subject of pending litigation. A spokesman did say that officers must document all incidents regardless of a person's age.
The letter also criticized the police department for not following up with people who had reported potential hate crimes, and for distributing vague and conflicting policies to officers regarding hate crimes.
In a written statement, County Executive Steve Levy said that his office agreed with some of the recommendations made by the Department of Justice and disagreed with others. "With the many reforms we have made over the last few years, we are likely far ahead of other like counties," the statement read.
Reverend Allan Ramirez, an outspoken advocate for the Lucero family and the Latino community said the findings were not surprising to anyone. "We knew all of this already a long time ago."
When pressed about whether he had noticed positive changes in Suffolk County, Joselo Lucero said, "I don’t see much, maybe you can see 1 or 2 officers, but other than that I don’t see much."
Lucero added that he had moved from Patchogue, where his brother was killed, and alluded that it was because of an "incident." He refused to answer when asked whether it involved the police.
Joselo Lucero said he would wait to see whether charges would be brought against anyone resulting from the DOJ investigation, but asserted that those held accountable for failing to properly investigate hate crimes should be discharged from their positions.