1/24/11

Hate Crimes Unit Commander: Levy Interfered

Det. Sgt. Robert Reecks served 13 years as head of Suffolk County's hate crimes unit. But he says that since the election in 2004 of nativist Steve Levy as Suffolk County Executive, that his "ability to do that job" had become compromised by the administration. The most recent example followed the alleged doctoring of a hate crimes report by Levy's office.

Last week, Reecks was removed as head of Suffolk County’s Hate Crimes Unit.

Newsday’s Joye Brown interviewed Reecks. Below are excerpts:
The change began, he said, soon after Levy won the county’s top elected position in 2004 – riding a local tide of anger against illegal immigration.

“They came in and they started to shut it down...all of a sudden it was, no, you are not doing that, no, that is not a hate crime,” said Reecks.

Levy’s office killed or altered news releases designed to aid the division’s investigations, Reecks said.
Over time, every draft public communication from the division was routed to Levy’s office...where, Reecks said, often they were sanitized of such language as “hate crimes.”

Reecks said that the choke on communications, however, directly affected the division’s ability to close cases.
Nearly three years later, Reecks said he was third on the list of interviews when the U.S. Justice Department stepped in last year to begin its ongoing investigation into the county’s handling of hate crime complaints.

He said county officials were upset that he wanted to speak with investigators alone – which he ultimately did. It was during that interview, Reecks said, that he asked flippantly whether the police department might punish him for speaking to federal investigators. The investigators’ response, said Reecks: Let us know if that happens.

Reecks said he left the task force after being called to account by his superiors for comments he made during two task force meetings.
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