One of the first prisoners to have his convictions overturned and be released from prison last year in Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas J. Spota’s investigation of the Southampton Town Police Department claims in a recent lawsuit that the county, town, their police departments, an unnamed Town Police officer, and the D.A.’s office ignored a “pattern of law enforcement improprieties and misconduct in order to secure a conviction.”
In his May 21 State Supreme Court suit, Bernard Cooks of Sag Harbor also claims the agencies failed to train their employees in their legal obligations, including disclosing exculpatory evidence and disclosing officer misconduct.
Mr. Cooks also charges that he was wrongfully arrested, detained, searched and imprisoned following a January 2011 Street Crime Unit drug raid on a North Sea home. He and three other men arrested in the raid all have since been released from custody, and charges were dropped.
Susan Menu, the attorney who represented Mr. Cooks in that case, said she never received a copy of the search warrant that led to their arrest, but that Town Police Officer Eric Sickles was the officer who signed the affidavit to obtain the warrant from the judge, and that he and his sergeant at the time, James Kiernan, were integral to the cases that were overturned. Both officers returned to duty in the past year following several-months-long suspensions on disciplinary charges.
Ms. Menu said she is disappointed the Town Board has not followed through on bringing in an outside agency to review the police department’s policies: “It appears that there’s more political implications to this than we might know.”