At least a dozen Latin immigrants say they were robbed by police officers during traffic stops in one New York town.
The complaints all sound similar. Drivers were told to look the other way while police officers rifled through their wallets and other personal belongings. They later discovered money missing.
Most of the incidents happened while the county's police department was already being investigated by the Justice Department, according to the New York Times. Officials tell the newspaper that more people are coming forward with similar allegations of police misconduct in or around Coram, N.Y.
In January, a long-time Suffolk County police officer, Sgt. Scott A. Greene, was arrested and charged with misconduct and petty larceny after an undercover detective armed with a surveillance camera caught Greene taking $100 from an envelope on his front seat, according to authorities.
"I am particularly outraged by his conduct, of one who is sworn to protect the community and instead targeted those who he perceived to be vulnerable," Suffolk County police commissioner Edward Webber told Newsday.
The Suffolk County Police Department says on its website that Greene may have targeted additional members of the Latino community and asks victims to call their internal-affairs bureau.
Charges of police officers illegally stealing from minority motorists are nothing new. It was only last week when four officers in one small California town were arrested and accused of illegally seizing vehicles belonging to poor motorists during traffic stops and either keeping the cars for themselves or selling them for personal profit. In that case, investigators also said the police officers targeted poor minorities because they were easy prey.
In Deming, N.M., police officers accused of conducting illegal anal probes of motorists searched following traffic stops settled a lawsuit with one of the men in January for $1.6 million, but have not been charged with a crime.
Pete Bigelow is an associate editor at AOL Autos. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.