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Mar 6, 2013 11:18 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town Settles Discrimination Charges With Officer

Mar 6, 2013 11:42 AM

The Southampton Town Board last week approved a settlement agreement with a Town Police officer who filed a discrimination complaint against several of the department’s superior officers.

The officer who filed the complaint, Brian DeLuca, claimed that he was discriminated against professionally, verbally hazed and physically abused by several other members of the department because of his ethnic heritage, which is part Hispanic. His complaint to the State Division of Human Rights alleges more than 30 instances of abuse and verbal denigration directed at him because of his ethnicity from 2002 to 2009.

The settlement does not reward the officer any money, other than reimbursing him for legal fees, but orders his superiors to grant him a duty assignment he had requested and bars a specific sergeant from being put in a supervisory position over him.

The settlement comes as the town is facing new discrimination complaints filed last month by two female sergeants in the department, both claiming that they were held back from promotions, treated unequally and removed from duty assignments because of their gender. Those complaints are being reviewed by state investigators now to determine if there is probable cause for them to be brought to an official hearing.

“I think we all felt [this settlement] was fair and appropriate,” Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said of the agreement involving Officer DeLuca. “I think what it does—any of these kind of complaints—is shine a light on staff issues and our responsibility for addressing them. We should be looking further and digging deeper to make sure our patrolmen are working in an appropriate environment.”

The supervisor said that the board is striving to help address the sort of prejudices and discrimination highlighted in Officer DeLuca’s allegations, and that they must be diligent to follow through on any similar concerns raised by other officers.

At a meeting on February 26, the Town Board unanimously approved the acceptance of the settlement agreement. According to a copy of the settlement, the town agreed to pay $9,000 for Officer DeLuca’s legal fees incurred from the filing and settlement of the complaint, and instructs Police Chief Robert Pearce to assign Officer DeLuca to the department’s Community Response Unit, a duty assignment the complaint claims Officer DeLuca is exceptionally qualified for and had requested but was improperly denied due to the bias of superiors and other officers.

The settlement also instructs Chief Pearce to consider Officer DeLuca for assignment to the East End Drug Task Force, a special detail operated by the Suffolk County distinct attorney’s office using officers from various municipal departments. The complaint also asserts that Officer DeLuca was particularly suited for work on the task force, which he had also requested, because of his ability to speak Spanish.

Additionally, the settlement stipulates that Officer DeLuca should not receive duty assignments that would put him under the supervision of a specific superior, Sergeant Steve Miller, one of the officers cited in numerous incidents of alleged abuse, threats and discrimination detailed in the complaint.

The State Human Rights Division found that there was probable cause to consider Officer Deluca’s complaint, which was filed in 2009. Officer DeLuca, who was hired by the town in 2002, accused several of his superior officers of a variety of abuses, both verbal and physical, and of sullying his professional reputation to keep him from promotions and better assignments.

Among the long list of abuses in the official complaint, Officer DeLuca claims that he was sprayed with pepper spray by a superior and shocked with a Tazer and stun gun by another superior on two different occasions. Both of those incidents involved now-retired officers.

Officer DeLuca says that his colleagues and superiors, most notably Sgt. Miller, frequently made derogatory statements about Hispanics in his presence and made jokes about his Hispanic heritage. Officer DeLuca said that Sgt. Miller, who was not yet a sergeant when the complaint was filed, threatened to “ruin my career” and “make my life a living hell” on various occasions, threw a banana peel at Officer DeLuca’s face in one incident, and took steps to make Officer DeLuca look bad in the eyes of superiors.

The complaint says that Officer DeLuca was passed over for assignment to the Community Response Unit on multiple occasions, despite having signed up for the assignment. Officer DeLuca’s fluency in Spanish, he said, makes him uniquely suited for the detail, which is assigned to addressing quality of life issues in Southampton communities.

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It's time to shut down the SHTPD and use the county PD which we already pay for!
By left eq (28), Southampton on Mar 8, 13 8:11 AM
You do not pay for county police services, left eq. A small portion of your property taxes, paid to Suffolk County pay for special invesitgative units such as homicide and arson. Replace the patrol units with the Suffolk County PD, and your police taxes will at least double.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 8, 13 10:08 AM
DOUBLE$$$$$???????? You now pay a Few hundred $$$$$ if that, for Southampton Police protection, much less than your Fire or EMS, thats what you should be complaining about. Count your lucky stars that you don't live in another Township like Big Brookhaven, Police protection is in the THOUSANDS$$$$$$$....wake up and smell the coffee!!!!!!
By The Squirl (36), Red creek on Mar 8, 13 12:27 PM
Tazer and Mace. Sound's like a hard rock band, anyway is this standard police
protocol to it's junior officers? Zero tolerance for the offending officers. I'm sure a lot of Southampton residents would love a 100g job.
By ridethetruthwave (17), southampton on Mar 8, 13 1:11 PM
There should be more of an investigation
By Erin 27 E (1281), southampton on Mar 8, 13 1:43 PM
"The State Human Rights Division found that there was probable cause to consider Officer Deluca’s complaint, which was filed in 2009."

Yet a mere 2 week earlier our town attorney Tiffany Scarlato says the following in reference to 2 Female Sergeants filing discrimination complaints. Ms Scarlato, did not not have knowledge of this finding or are you misleading the public while trying to dismiss & minimize accusations of discrimination?

"While civil rights claims against the ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Mar 8, 13 4:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
PS - Ms. Scarlato, civil rights complaints against the town SHOULD be uncommon. Maybe the practices of the town should be examined.
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Mar 8, 13 4:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
I think is should be noted, at least by outward appearances of the article this officer was not out for a money grab. "The State Human Rights Division found that there was probable cause to consider Officer Deluca’s complaint" and all he did was seek reimbursement of his legal fees and be allowed to work free of discrimination.

More than fair and the town got off easy IMO.
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Mar 8, 13 5:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Being Hispanic bothers me now. If the cops are picking on there own because they are Hispanic what are they gonna do to us. And Scarlotta, trim that ------->
By carson (79), southampton on Mar 8, 13 5:08 PM
November 2013 --

"None of the above!"

Embarrassing to say the least.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Mar 8, 13 5:15 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sounds like he wasn't selected for a choice assignment - so he filed a complaint about what sounds like locker room nut busting found on any job- and now he gets BOTH of the choice assignments. Way to play the system bud!
By CaptainSig (716), Dutch Harbor on Mar 8, 13 10:38 PM
Maybe your "locker room nut busting found on any job" is in reality inappropriate behavior. "Way to play the system bud!", what did he play? The article states that "The settlement does not reward the officer any money, other than reimbursing him for legal fees" How choice can that assignment be if you do not get more money?

"The State Human Rights Division found that there was probable cause to consider Officer Deluca’s complaint" & The town appears to think there was enough ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Mar 9, 13 9:36 AM