LatinoJustice and pro bono co-counsel filed this federal class action lawsuit in May 2015 o/b/o Latinx Long Island residents who had been racially profiled and “stopped & robbed” by Suffolk Police over the past decade. An undercover sting operation by the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in January 2014 resulted in the arrest of a then uniformed Suffolk County Police Sergeant while on duty. Numerous Latinx community residents subsequently came forward to publicly report that they had been racially profiled and stopped while driving, and then had money stolen by an officer, or given a ticket.
Our 1983 civil rights action contends that the County and the Police Department failed to properly monitor and take timely action despite complaints alerting them to the conduct for several years.
Plaintiffs were granted a protective order permitting them to proceed anonymously given they had demonstrated reasonable fears of retaliation “In light of the criminal) indictment(s) and the serious allegations against other SCPD Officers in this case [still employed by the SCPD], the Court finds that the Plaintiffs’ fears of possible retaliation and further harassment by SCPD Officers to be a reasonable assumption”.
MJ Bloom on March 13, 2021 issued a Report and Recommendation (R&R) recommending plaintiffs’ proposed class certification for injunctive relief be granted citing prior community complaints about SCPD biased policing including previous 2008 LJP complaint letters to DOJ after hate crime murder of Marcello Lucero citing SCPD’s failure to investigate hate crimes being perpetrated v. Latino immigrant residents. The R&R in addressing “that plaintiffs’ counsel be qualified, experienced, and able to conduct the litigation” stated that “Plaintiffs are in excellent hands. LatinoJustice PRLDEF is a non-profit organization that routinely litigates civil rights cases and has experience in class action civil rights litigation. E.g., Ligon (NYPD Stop & Frisk case), 288 F.R.D. 72; Aguilar v. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE “home raids” case), No. 07-CV-8224 (S.D.N.Y 2007).” On April 5th Judge Kuntz issued an order approving R&R class certification upon de novo review finding no error!
On August 5, 2021, the court issued orders denying defendant’s motion for summary judgment and granting plaintiffs’ motion for a rebuttable presumption that had the SCPD adequately collected, audited, and analyzed traffic stop data, such data would show that SCPD officers targeted Latinos for traffic stops and subjected them to disparate treatment during those stops.
After numerous mediation sessions in June and July 2022 with a court-appointed mediator, the parties in August 2022 on the eve of trial reached a settlement in principle and postponed the trial. Our settlement proposal was subsequently approved by the County Legislature and by the district court. In addition to providing financial settlements for each of the 20 plaintiffs, the settlement included injunctive relief including civic advisory boards for Suffolk County’s seven police precincts; implicit-bias training; improved language access; investigation of new hires for involvement with white supremacist groups; body-worn cameras; and robust data collection.
A fairness hearing on the proposed class settlement was held on July 14th, 2023. After hearing poignant testimony from several plaintiffs and class representatives, and argument by LatinoJustice and our co-counsel at Milbank, the court granted the class action settlement.
After 8 long years of fighting SCPD, LatinoJustice is very proud of the class settlement, which includes: civic advisory boards for each of Suffolk County’s seven police precincts; implicit-bias training; improved language access; background investigation of new hires for involvement with white supremacist/hate groups; body-worn cameras; and, crucially, robust data collection.
The Final Class Notice (English + Spanish) are available for review here: https://www.milbank.com/en/plaintiffs1-21.html.