GARDEN CITY, N.Y. – Federal agents displayed a "cowboy" mentality while running roughshod over local police officers — at times pointing their weapons at cops — and ensnared more suspected illegal aliens than targeted gangsters in raids on Long Island last week, officials said Tuesday.
"There were clear dangers of friendly fire," Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey said. "We did have members that were actually drawn upon."
Mulvey and County Executive Tom Suozzi want Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to investigate the tactics used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents; ICE is under the jurisdiction of the Homeland Security department.
The furor erupted after agents rounded up 186 people last week in what was billed as a crackdown on gang activity on Long Island. Federal authorities said many of the people arrested were gang members, but local officials believe that claim was exaggerated and that the raids were largely an attempt to round up illegal immigrants.
Nassau County officials contend only eight of the 92 arrested in their county had any ties to gangs.
Mulvey has said his officers would no longer cooperate with the raids unless tactics and policies are changed.
Mulvey contended that better cooperation between ICE agents and Nassau cops could have led to more arrests of targeted gang members. In one case, Mulvey said, "ICE sought a 28-year-old defendant using a photograph taken when he was a 7-year-old boy."
He also said the ICE agents appeared to have come from various locations across the country and didn't even wear the same uniforms; some wore cowboy hats. During some raids, ICE agents momentarily pointed their weapons at Nassau County officers in apparent confusion.
ICE special agent Peter J. Smith did not immediately return a telephone call for comment, but on Monday dismissed the police complaints as a misunderstanding.