Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Show me your paper" in Georgia

ATLANTA, GA (Rich Pellegrino) - The interviews below with the Cobb and Marietta Police Chiefs show that some progress has been made In their positions and actions in regards to immigrants and the laws targeting them. This is due in no small part to your persistent exertions, support and prayers in this regard. Though there is still much work to do, especially in relation to racial profiling of all people of color, and the disparities in the overall justice system, thank you for working together for this success and progress.

In light of the federal court ruling this week saying Georgia law enforcement authorities may check the immigration status of criminal suspects who fail to produce proper identification, the Journal sat down with Cobb County Police Chief John Houser to learn how he intends to implement the new law.

"We have had discretionary powers in the past to inquire with federal agencies on immigration status, so if we would run a person in a database and get an immigration hold, the officers did have the discretionary power to either call or have our 911 Center call those agencies, (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) or whoever the hold is with, to get a determination from them on the status of the hold and any direction on what they would like us to do with that person. …

In (House Bill 87), they’re saying in a case where there’s probable cause where a person has committed a crime and if they don’t have identification as described within that bill, then the officer has the discretion to do certain things."

"There may be an Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) hold on somebody. Our officer is not going to come up and ask Jon Gillooly about his immigration status. It would typically be when a person is run in a certain database — you might have a warrant against you, a bench warrant for whatever. Let’s say there’s a bench warrant against you for failure to pay your child support and you didn’t go to court. Whether it’s that case or an immigration warrant, whoever the law enforcement entity that’s put that hold out there, we will make a follow-up inquiry. You could have a felony warrant on you for burglary in another county in this state, but that county might say we’re not going to extradite. On an immigration hold, it may say ‘yes, there is a hold on Jon Gillooly,’ but it would be somebody giving us direction. Typically we’re not making an arrest strictly on a hold on an immigration issue.

If you don’t have a driver’s license and you’re driving down I-75, we might arrest you and make a custodial arrest because you’re driving without a license. The custodial arrest is made. You’re turned over to the Sheriff, and whatever protocols they have in place that is when they follow their procedures. They’re the ones that are working hand-in-hand with ICE, and we’re out there in the field just doing our thing, whether it’s traffic enforcement or responding to 911 calls … It’s only those situations where there is probable cause that you’ve committed a crime and then we’re going to run you to make sure there is no other holds or warrants, and that’s when it becomes an immigration issue if there is a hold."

Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn said Marietta officers will put their newfound ability into practice in a “very measured” way.

Flynn said he would wait for guidance from Attorney General Sam Olens, whom he expects will provide police officers with appropriate cautions to ensure they proceed in a judicious way. Beyond the Attorney General’s guidance, Flynn said he would work with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and coordinate with the Georgia Sheriff’s Association.

“We, in law enforcement, appreciate our legislators giving us the tools we need to keep our communities safe, and we have no intention of being arbitrary or heavy-handed in their application,” Flynn said.

Flynn said he did not foresee fear among Marietta’s Latino community as a result of this law.

“Over the past six years, we have maintained a good dialogue with the Latino community through the Cobb Latino Initiative, immigration advocacy groups, and our highly successful Franklin Road Weed and Seed program,” Flynn said. “We even ran a poster campaign entitled ‘Help Us Help You’ to let immigrants in Marietta know that if they were the victim of or witness to a crime, we specifically would not even inquire about their immigration status. Moreover, we have not had any specific allegation of mistreatment of any immigrant by any Marietta officer. So while illegal immigrants may understandably have a general fear of the police, there is no reason to suspect they may fear the Marietta Police Department in particular.”

As to the issue of profiling, Flynn said Marietta police are strongly opposed to it, have policies prohibiting it and continually train officers in the proper mechanics of making stops and arrests.

“Using race, ethnicity, or gender as a reason is simply unacceptable. This is clearly laid out in our rules against profiling,” Flynn said

Source:  The Marietta Daily Journal

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