Balancing act for cops who must enforce new law - East Valley Tribune: News

Balancing act for cops who must enforce new law

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Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010 7:00 pm | Updated: 3:43 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Vowing to hold law enforcement accountable if a new immigration law is misused, Gov. Jan Brewer on Friday issued an executive order to the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to develop training to properly implement the law.

Brewer issued the order moments after signing SB 1070 into law.

Lyle Mann, board executive director, said officials have not had sufficient time to review the executive order. But he said the board will do “all it needs to do” to meet the governor’s demands.

“Anytime there’s a new law, we have to start thinking about what we’re going to do,” Mann said. “This is a training issue and we do what we have to do to facilitate training of police officers. That’s our business. We’ll do what has to be done.”

The new law allows police officers to arrest those they believe are in this country illegally. Those in violation are subject to the misdemeanor offense of trespassing punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,500 fine before deportation.

The bill raises concerns by some in law enforcement because it is unfunded and may lead to racial profiling. It also allows individuals to sue local police departments if they believe they are not fully enforcing the law. Municipalities could be fined between $1,000 to $5,000 per day in such instances.

Brewer said that she hopes the law enforcement board will have a training program developed and returned to her by May. The AZPOST board of directors includes the Arizona Attorney General, the directors of the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Department of Corrections, several county sheriffs and local police departments. Brewer also is requesting the board make recommendations on possible improvements to SB 1070 before the end of the year. Mann said it was too early to tell whether the group will make any recommendations.

As the bill progressed through the state House of Representatives and the Senate, it divided police chiefs and officers.

The Arizona Police Association, which represents 18 Valley law enforcement associations and about 9,000 sworn officers, supports the measure.

“This bill provides us with another tool which will allow us to receive intelligence and take dangerous people out of neighborhoods,” said Brian Livingston, association executive director. “Our main concern was that it was extremely important to ensure that peoples’ constitutional rights were protected. Racial profiling occurs when a police officer stops a person for none other than the color of their skin. Police can’t stop someone without cause. They have to have a reason.”

Among East Valley cities, the Mesa Police Association, which represents 600 sworn police officers, initially opposed the bill. But it now supports it after seeing its final version.

The Tempe Officers Association, Chandler Law enforcement Association and the Gilbert Police Leadership Association also are among the unions that support the new law.

However, the Arizona Association of Police Chiefs oppose the measure. It contends that it would hinder the investigation of more serious crimes and erode the trust between police and immigrant communities.

“We’ve opposed the law from the beginning,” said John Thomas, a lobbyist for the group.

Bryan Soller, president of Fraternal Order of Police’s Mesa Lodge No. 9, said the law is “not going to change the way we do business and officers have the discretion in enforcing it.”

“I don’t see us running amuck with the law,” Soller said. “This law isn’t going to stop drug trafficking, human smuggling or illegal immigration. That’s going to take a bigger thing than us. Our concerns are what this is going to cost our cities, jails and prisons, or if we have to pay the $200 booking fee to take them to the county jail if our jail is full. But, we’ll have to wait and see. We’ll make it work.”

The Mesa City Jail can hold 24 inmates, but most nights it’s overbooked, Soller said.

Even the day before Brewer signed the bill, Mesa’s elected officials worried about the cost of jailing those arrested under the law. Mesa police told the City Council to expect more arrests and substantially higher jail costs, though they couldn’t provide an estimate. While council members did not criticize the bill, they blasted lawmakers for passing the cost on to cities.

“This is an unfunded mandate,” Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said. “There’s no money, just demands.”

The success of law depends on the training local police officers receive from federal immigration officers so they can properly enforce the law, according to Neville Cramer of Scottsdale, a retired special agent in the Department of Justice’s Immigration and Naturalization Services.

Cramer, who worked for the agency for nearly 30 years, said he fully supports the law, which he believes will send a strong message to Washington.

“Training is going to make or break this law,” said Cramer, who has written two books that chronicle immigration problems throughout the United States and offers suggestions on how to fix them. “It’s a great bill and will serve a purpose.”

Cramer said that there’s three things that are needed for the bill to be a success.

“One, officers need to be taught about different nationalities,” he said. “Two, officers need to be trained about different documents — and not just by being given a book with four or five different pictures in it. And three, give officers training on how to prevent racial profiling.”

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