Justice Dept. probe of Chicago PD draws similarities to Suffolk County PD controversy

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NEW YORK — An announcement on Monday by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch that the Justice Department is investigating brutality and racism by Chicago police, added another police department to a growing list of law enforcement under federal scrutiny, including one from our own area.

The probe, on Long Island, of the top brass at the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest police forces in the country, is expected to result in federal indictments soon -- possibly in the next few days.

The recently retired chief of the Long Island department, James Burke, is at the center of the federal investigation.  It's one of many nationwide, including probes of the police departments of Los Angeles, Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.

The Suffolk County investigation is similar in that it involves a large police department, but its focus is at the top of the department's masthead.

"When you get the commissioner, the chief of detectives and the chief of department, and then you see a flow of detectives," said retired NYPD detective sergeant Wally Zeins, listing the positions in which resignations have been recently announced, there comes with it the expectation of indictments, "sooner, [rather] than later," he said.

Chief Burke is accused of torturing suspect Christopher Loeb, 30, after Loeb stole Burke's duffel bag from the chief's unmarked police SUV three years ago.  In the bag were a gun holster, ammunition, and handcuffs, as well as what Loeb ended up identifying, on the record, as "nasty porn" -- possibly illegal material.

Sources close to the case tell PIX11 News that Chief Burke may be indicted as early as Tuesday or Wednesday,  on dozens of charges that even go beyond the accusations of prisoner torture.

He's not expected to be the only one going down.

"Other people may be involved," said Zeins, who is a veteran internal affairs investigator with sources close to the Suffolk County police case, "whether in the police department, or in the political arena," Zeins said "or [at Chief Burke's] former location, the district attorney's office."

Burke, 48,  was the chief investigator under Suffolk County district attorney Tom Spota for 10 years before being appointed chief of the Suffolk County Police Department in 2012.