After months of delay, the long-awaited Suffolk County Hate Crimes Task Force report has been waylaid by County Executive Steve Levy’s office, according to Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). The report was to be drafted by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) for the Task Force, but before it was even seen by the members of the task force, it went to Steve Levy’s chief deputy Ed Dumas, Gregory said.
Gregory and other task force members are planning a press conference for 11am today in the lobby of the Suffolk County Legislature in Smithtown.
The task force was set up in the immediate aftermath of the Marcelo Lucero killing in November 2008 “to examine the sources of racial tension in the county, to study and analyze the mechanisms used to report hate crimes in the county, and provide recommendations on current hate crime legislation,” according to the legislation. Composed of 13 people and helmed by Legis. Gregory, the task force was commissioned to produce a written report on its findings, including recommendations.
The group met numerous times throughout 2009 and 2010, and concluded all major hearings early in the year. Since then, however, the report has been stalled by delays from the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
According to Gregory, the county executive’s office wanted to examine the report before it went to the Task Force to correct inaccuracies about the police department’s handling of hate crimes.
Levy has long claimed that the Marcelo Lucero killing was an aberration, and, as evidence of that, the county executive has cited that one hate crime was recorded by the Suffolk County Police Department against a Latino during the 10 months preceding Lucero’s death. However, a September 2009 report by the Southern Poverty Law Center details numerous attacks against Latinos during that period, some involving racial slurs that accompanied attacks.
The Suffolk Hate Crimes Task Force was established to shed light on the reality of hate crimes in Suffolk. The group was charged with restoring trust between the immigrant community and the police who are sworn to protect them. Levy’s interference with the Task Force process, from start to finish, undermines the legitimacy of the investigation and makes the Task Force’s report a nullity.
Since the Lucero killing, the Levy administration has rebuffed claims about violence against Latino immigrants in Suffolk County, even as the county’s police force undergoes an investigation by the Department of Justice for its handling of crimes reported by Latinos.
The Task Force and the legislators who established it need to stand united and forceful against this gross violation of that body’s very integrity.