A new report on the Suffolk County Police Department’s mishandling of investigations into young Latino immigrants murdered by Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) aired on National Public Radio on Sunday. The report, on the popular This American Life program, was given nearly an hour of air-time. It explores the incompetence and racism that allowed multiple reports of the disappearances of Latino boys and girls to be mischaracterized by the police as cases of “runaways” when in fact they were the victims of abductions and killings by MS-13.
The program, entitled “The Runaways,” is told in the first person by investigative reporter Hannah Dreir from ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism organization. It includes a troubling interview with then-Suffolk County Police Chief Tim Sini in which he offers contradictory statements on his department’s failure to investigate killings by MS-13 prior to the murder of two United States-born high school girls in the summer of 2016.
The report also airs a tape of a meeting between an immigrant father and the police in which the father asked his 15 year old daughter to speak with the police about her own possible abduction by MS-13. During the meeting, the father asks at least seven times for an interpreter to be present. Supposedly, the Suffolk Police policy mandates the use of an interpreter when it is requested. Yet the police simply ignore the requests or use the man’s child as the interpreter, both which is barred by the Suffolk Police’s procures.
As the father and daughter protested against their treatment, the police began talking about arresting the girl. As far as the reporter could determine, the police did nothing with the information the two brought to them. The MS-13 member who was coercing the 15 year-old girl was later charged with six murders.
The centerpiece of the report is the search by the families of these disappeared Long Islanders for their missing children. Their callous treatment at the hands of the police is shocking, even for those of us who have witnessed it first-hand ourselves. Hearing that police referred to the killing of young Latinos by MS-13 as “misdemeanor murder” is horrifying.
This is a “must-listen” piece of journalism. Use the player below to listen.