Suffolk County Appoints New Head of Hate Crimes Unit

UPDATE: Det. Lt. Hernandez told Newsday in a January 30 article that his Spanish was “a little rusty.” Newsday also noted that Hernandez has used a Spanish translator in the past.

Since the November 2008 killing of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, the Suffolk County Police Department has faced national criticism for its hate crime reporting, or lack thereof.

Amid the scrutiny, which includes an ongoing federal investigation into the county’s policing of crimes against Latinos, the police department and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy have consistently denied any inadequacies in the handling of bias crimes.

However, a change in leadership within the hate crimes unit on January 7—replacing Det. Sgt. Robert Reecks with a Spanish-speaking officer of a higher rank—serves as a de facto acknowledgement of deficiencies.

Suffolk County Police Commission Richard Dormer announced that Det. Lt. Stephen Hernandez will become the new commanding officer of the Hate Crimes Unit, with Det. Sgt. Reecks remaining as deputy commander.


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