SUFFOLK COUNTY, L.I. (PIX11) – PIX11 News was the first broadcast news source to report on allegations of serious wrongdoing by James Burke, chief of the Suffolk County Police, one of the country’s largest departments. PIX11 was also the first to point out that if accusations against Chief Burke were true, they may warrant a federal criminal investigation. Now, all evidence points to that investigation, by the FBI, getting underway.
Burke has some 2,500 men and women under his command, but he is accused of violating the strict police procedures that he, as Suffolk County’s top uniformed officer, is responsible for enforcing. He may have also broken the law in his handling of a case that involved him personally.
The situation centers around the arrest of Christopher Loeb, 26, around 12:30 A.M. on December 14th of last year. Loeb was placed under arrest in his home in Smithtown on grand larceny, possession of stolen goods and other charges after more than a dozen cars had been broken into. One of those cars was a police department-issued SUV which belonged to Chief Burke. From that vehicle, somebody stole the chief’s gun belt, ammunition, handcuffs and other, unnamed items that were in a duffel bag that had been in the SUV.
“Was everything that was in that bag department issue?” asked Wally Zeins, a retired NYPD detective supervisor and PIX11 contributor. “Or is there something he didn’t want his subordinates to know?”
Zeins asked the question that has yet to be answered in the six months since Loeb was arrested. A new FBI investigation might get to the heart of it.
For now, though, sources tell PIX11 News that agents are looking into whether or not Chief Burke violated the civil rights of the young man accused of stealing from him.
Police reports indicate that on the night of Loeb’s arrest, Chief Burke went into the young man’s home and confronted him, which is a serious violation of police policy. In addition to that, according to the suspect and his family, the chief roughed him up.
“I’m telling you what I didn’t see, but what I was told,” Christopher Loeb’s mother, Jane, told PIX11 News, regarding information her son told her about the night of his arrest.
“My son cannot talk [publicly],” said Jane Loeb, “but he did confide in his mother.” Her son also told her that on the night of his arrest, he was taken, in handcuffs, from their home to the nearest police precinct, and beaten further by Chief Burke.
For his part, the chief, who is documented carrying out conduct in conflict with the police protocols he himself had set, has said nothing publicly about the Loeb case. Instead, his department said in a statement to PIX11 News that “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.”
Loeb has been held in custody on $500,000 bond, an unusually high amount for the crimes he’s with which he’s charged. His family has not filed a formal complaint against the Suffolk County Police Department or Chief Burke, but Loeb’s mother, Jane, said to PIX11 News regarding the prospects of her son’s case, “I wouldn’t be surprised if people come forward. My son can’t.”
An FBI spokesperson told PIX11 News, in a written statement, “We don’t have any comment.”
The agency can neither confirm nor deny officially that its civil rights investigations division is looking into this case.