SUFFOLK CO., LONG ISLAND (PIX11)
The conduct of the Suffolk County chief of police in the handling of a low-level felony is calling into question his judgement and raising questions as to whether there’s more to the case that could implicate him in some way.
Newly released police department information shows that Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke went in person to the home of suspect Christopher Loeb, 26, after cops arrested Loeb last December 14th for stealing items from more than a dozen cars in the village of St. James, near Smithtown, including taking a duffel bag from Chief Burke’s unmarked department-issued SUV.
Chief Burke reportedly showed up at the home Loeb shared with his father on Landing Avenue in Smithtown around 12:30 A.M.
“On or off duty,” said retired New York Police Department detective and PIX11 consultant Wally Zeins, “[if] I’m the victim of a crime, I do not go to the person’s house. I’m now a victim.”
Zeins made clear in an interview with PIX11 News that he has no connection to the case in question, but pointed out that law enforcement protocols and procedures in the NYPD and Suffolk County Police Department are similar. Zeins said that for any victim to be allowed contact with a suspect during an arrest is a significant violation of procedure that can adversely affect an investigation. That adverse effect, Zeins said, is aggravated if the person is a member of law enforcement, and the higher the police rank, the greater the aggravation.
“Being police chief [on scene], it puts all of the cops involved in a precarious situation,” said Zeins. The entire situation has many question marks around it that point to possible wrongdoing by Chief Burke, as well as the suspect.
The facts of the case are these: In mid-December 2012, a variety of items were stolen from more than a dozen vehicles on the streets of St. James, and some of the vehicles that were broken into were unlocked, including, possibly, the chief’s SUV.
“If you left it open and articles were taken from there, you’re in violation,” Zeins said. Investigative work led detectives to Loeb and an alleged accomplice, Gabriel Miguelez, 36, of Lindenhurst, Long Island.
For the role he’s accused of in the case, Miguelez was charged with 23 criminal counts, and given $10,000 bond, which he posted. As for Loeb, who has a prior record of grand larceny and has been arrested for other crimes in the past, he faces 29 criminal charges, and $500,000 bond, which he was not capable of posting. Furthermore, a special prosecutor was assigned to his case.
“When you put a special prosecutor onto something, doen’t it make you think twice?” asked Zeins. “Could there be allegations or something? I don’t know.”
This much the seasoned detective knows. The chief’s duffel bag was stolen, and in it, according to records, were a gun belt, ammunition, handcuffs, and possibly personal items. What those personal items were remains an unanswered question.
“Was everything that was in that bag department issue?” Zeins asked. “Or is there something [Chief Burke] didn’t want his subordinates to know?
In response to PIX11’s request for comment from Chief Burke, the SCPD issued this statement:
“Once a subject has been arraigned, the Suffolk County Police Department does not comment on the case. The Christopher Loeb case is an active on-going criminal prosecution. It would be inappropriate for Chief Burke to comment on this case. Chief Burke, along with numerous other victims of Christopher Loeb, are not only victims but potential witnesses in this case.”
PIX11 also requested comment from the special prosecutor, and attorneys for both defendants in the case. They declined.