Latinos Sue Long Island Police Department for Profiling, Theft

(Photo by Ciorra Photography, Creative Commons license)

(Photo by Ciorra Photography, Creative Commons license)

Turning her back to the press, one of the victims of former Suffolk County police sergeant Scott Greene told about the six years of hell she endured when she and her husband became the target of systematic theft only for being Hispanic.

The woman, who declined to identify herself or reveal her country of origin, estimates that in those years the officer stole from her family about $6,000, during all the times they were stopped on 25th Street in Coram, one of the routes most travelled by Latino drivers on Long Island. But the immigrant, who claimed Greene also harassed them in their home and when they were not driving, said they were not the only victims.

“He always made sure that he was stopping Hispanics. Some days, he had as many as 15 cars lined up. He stole from all of us,” she said.

Exactly 21 of those affected by the thefts filed a class-action lawsuit on April 29 against the Suffolk County Police Department. But they are not the only ones. More undocumented immigrants were victimized by Greene but, despite being supported by lawyers from LatinoJustice PRLDEF and a dozen pro-immigrant organizations, they declined to join the lawsuit for fear of arrest or deportation.

Juan Cartagena, president of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, confirmed to El Diario that, in addition to the 21 victims who filed the class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, there are other Latino drivers who preferred not to be involved.

“Definitely, there are more residents affected. The plaintiffs are only the tip of the iceberg of the broken Long Island police system,” he said. “It was a decade of theft through racial profiling that went unnoticed by the police high command.”

Cartagena said that it took two years to convince the 21 plaintiffs to report to the authorities.

“The lawsuit does not reveal the names of those affected. They really fear the police and judicial system.”

Greene, a Shirley resident who made as much as $150,000 per year, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, was arrested in 2014 and charged with stealing cash from Latino drivers after stopping them for supposed transit infractions.

The class-action lawsuit calls for an investigation of the county’s entire police department, claiming that other officers knew about the thefts of Latino drivers or covered up their superiors’ misdeeds by failing to report them.

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According to Cartagena, one of the victims contacted the police by calling 911, and threatened to call the media if he did not get the stolen money back. Later on, an officer returned the money to him.

“The conversation was recorded and registered,” said Cartagena. “We know Greene’s supervisors knew about the incident, but did nothing to stop him.”

Irma Solís, an organizer of Make The Road New York on Long Island, said that she got the first police theft report in 2012, but many more reports ensued in the following years – not only from drivers, but also bikers and pedestrians who were stopped and robbed.

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Modus operandi

The victim who talked with El Diario said that former sergeant Greene would order them to get out of the car and sit in back while he searched the interior to get cash.

“When we didn’t have money, he would send for an officer to fine us,” she said. “He made sure to stop us on Fridays and Saturdays, which are the days that we Latino workers get paid.”

The woman said that on one occasion, Greene stole from her husband $800, his earnings for a week’s work.

“It was the end of the month and we urgently needed that money to pay the rent,” she said. “At one point we would just pay so he would leave us alone. The harassment was constant. We moved out but he found us.”

Solís said that a similar situation was described by at least six members of her organization who declined to join the lawsuit even though they told LatinoJustice PRLDEF lawyers about their experience of being victims of theft by police officers.

“The fear still prevails that their information will be passed on to immigration authorities, or that the officers will retaliate,” she said. “It is a reflection of the anti-immigrant climate that remains on Long Island, although at a lower scale.”

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office indicated that after a cover-up operation led to the arrest of Scott Greene when he stole money from a Hispanic officer undercover, they worked with LatinoJustice and Make the Road New York in interviewing more than 50 victims and witnesses to investigate the details of the criminal conduct.

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The DA’s Office and the police department said that there is no credible evidence indicating that Greene acted with other police officers.

One Comment

  1. Your story is filled with the most outrageous lies. The lady who turned her back to the press as stated in this article, is obviously according to court papers Ms.Pena; girlfriend or wife of William, and who is claiming to be a victim. The woman in this article will be sued shortly for her disgusting report to you. Your paper, Irma Solis, Latino Justice, Make the road New York, and Mr. Cartagena will all be held liable for the continuous assassination of this officer and the police department. Your actions alone are criminal for the money seeking pay out you are trying to obtain while trying to extort money from the police department and the county. Further trying to destroy Sgt. Greene and all he did for the community and all he stood for. Read the 911 transcript. Sgt. Greene was not the one accused. You bunch of disgraceful theives. Your thirst to line your small miserable pockets will land all your criminal asses in prison shortly. Where you all belong with the DA. God help you all. You will not ever escape that judgement day, and hopefully you will be scorched in hell for all the lies you all told.

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