CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (AP/WCBS 880) – Local and national civil rights groups are lobbying the Justice Department to expand its investigation of a New York police department’s response to hate crime allegations.

Federal prosecutors are investigating the Suffolk County Police Department since the 2008 hate-crime stabbing of an Ecuadorean immigrant.

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Advocacy groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and Long Island Wins, met with prosecutors on Monday at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. They want investigators to focus on possible problems within the police hate crimes unit.

WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs reports the immigration leaders called their meeting ‘positive.’

Hate crime victim Marcelo Lucero. (Handout)

Earlier this year, a sergeant who led the unit was replaced, prompting questions about whether elected officials were interfering. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s spokesman says a lieutenant was named to lead the unit to reflect its importance in the department.

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The groups also hope, reports Xirinachs, the feds will investigate ‘whitewashed’ bias crimes.

“For whatever reason, it’s been determined that accurately reporting hate crime stats in this county wasn’t in someone’s political interest because they haven’t been reporting it,” said Henry Fernandez, Center for American Progress.

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The U.S. attorney’s spokesman declined comment.