Several unnamed Suffolk County police officers allegedly robbed Hispanic Long Islanders while covering up similar crimes that a former police sergeant has been accused of, according to a federal lawsuit.
Twenty-one Latino plaintiffs alleged that officers racially profiled them during traffic stops in which the officers either stole their cash or issued them unjustified traffic citations in what the lawsuit described as a decade-long “crime spree.”
“Several of our clients were robbed after Sgt. [Scott] Greene was caught,” Foster Maer, an attorney for the nonprofit LatinoJustice PRLDEF that filed the lawsuit, told reporters Thursday outside the Central Islip federal courthouse.
The new allegations come a year after Greene pleaded not guilty to charges of pulling over Latino drivers and stealing their cash. He later retired. Those charges were filed weeks after the county settled a federal probe of how Suffolk police handle hate crimes against Latinos.
“The Suffolk County Police Department expects and demands the highest professional and ethical values of our officers,” said in part in a statement in which it declined to discuss the lawsuit, denounced Greene and touted efforts to improve relations with Latinos.
Police also urged members of the public to come forward with complaints about officers’ conduct and reiterated that such complaints are investigated “fully.” Plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleged that they told police about the other officers, but investigators concluded Greene acted alone, according to lawyers for the advocacy group.
“The community will never feel safe until there is oversight and accountability in our justice system,” Amol Sinaha, director of the Suffolk County chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “When there’s a lack of response, there’s a need for litigation.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota’s office, which investigated the Greene case, issued a statement questioning the allegations in the lawsuit.
“There is no credible evidence that Greene acted with other police officers,” the statement said. “At no time did Latino Justice provide any information whatsoever that any victims were robbed by police officers. At no time did Latino Justice provide any audio tape to investigators regarding any alleged crime. Some of the incidents Latino Justice claims were ignored by the District Attorney involve incidents covered by the indictment against Greene.”
The suit names the police department, county, Greene and a host of police supervisors, some of whom names weren’t yet known. Suffolk County Attorney Dennis Brown, who represents the county in lawsuits, did not return a call for comment.