NEW YORK (PIX11) – Former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke was arrested by county park rangers in Brookhaven Tuesday morning and accused of soliciting a male undercover ranger for sex, officials said.
“Rangers ascertained that our perpetrator involved was James Burke, former Suffolk County Chief of Department,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said at a press conference.
Burke, 58, who was paroled from federal prison after doing time for beating a handcuffed suspect, allegedly begged park rangers not to arrest him for indecent exposure and public lewdness, asking them, “Do you know who I am?”
The Suffolk County Chief of Park Rangers told reporters the arresting officer did not realize who Burke was, at first.
Another officer from the Targeted Response Unit said of Burke, “He was expressing to us this would be a public humiliation to him.”
Burke had a checkered career in the Suffolk County Police Department, beginning with an Internal Affairs investigation in the 1990s on allegations that he consorted with and did drugs with a sex worker in his police vehicle and failed to secure his department-issued gun.
Despite the serious allegations, former Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota appointed Burke his Chief of Investigations, when he rose to power in the early 2000s. Spota mentored Burke since Burke was 13 years old and testified as the star witness against other teens charged with killing John Pius behind an elementary school in Smithtown.
Burke and Spota were later criticized for blocking the FBI’s involvement in the Gilgo Beach serial killer investigation in 2011, after Burke took over as Suffolk County Police Chief of Department.
The murmurs were that Burke and Spota didn’t want federal agents nosing around their turf.
An escort later accused Burke of sexually assaulting her inside a bathroom at an Oak Beach party. Those charges were never proven and no criminal charges were ever filed.
In 2016, Burke pleaded guilty to beating burglary suspect Christopher Loeb, while Loeb was handcuffed inside a Suffolk County police precinct. Loeb said Burke was enraged after Loeb broke into the chief’s official police vehicle, taking sex toys and porn tapes that were inside Burke’s black bag.
Burke was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison.
Spota, the district attorney, was later forced to resign and was convicted in federal court for trying to cover up Burke’s assault. Spota and an aide were sentenced to five years in prison.
Commissioner Harrison said Tuesday the Burke sexual solicitation happened at 10:15 a.m. inside Veterans Memorial Park in Brookhaven, near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Burke was charged with offering a sex act, public lewdness, indecent exposure and criminal solicitation.
Just six weeks ago, a suspect was finally arrested in the Gilgo Beach serial killer investigation, less than a year and a half after a new task force was formed, utilizing county, state and federal agencies working together.
Rex Heuermann, a married father of two from Massapequa Park, is accused of killing three women he hired as escorts through Craigslist, binding them with camouflage burlap and leaving them in the brush off Ocean Parkway.