I sat in on a meeting between ACLU and County Executive Ike Leggett on April 16th on several topics. Here are topics 3, 4, 5. Also in attendance were County Police Chief Manger, Art Wallenstein (Director, Corrections and Rehabilitation), Wayne Jerman, Asst. Chief., Russell Hammill, Asst. Chief. From ACLU Maryland were Mike Mage (MoCo Chapter), Melissa Goemann, Ajmel Quereshi and special guest from ACLU-NCA (Nations Capital) was Johnny Barnes (recently retired). Sarahi Uribe also joined – she’s an ACLU-NCA board member, and the National Campaign Coordinator for National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON).
Topic 3 – Secure Communities
Leggett said he met with Casa de Maryland on the topic and Mage lead in that it is time for recommendations on county policy toward “No ICE pickups” unless serious crime committed. ACLU wants County Police to change their current policy and not forward fingerprints to ICE (Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement) unless serious crimes are committed, like they used to do prior to Secure Communities Program. ACLU is against the ICE Secure Communities program because it’s not in keeping with their stated goal of “getting dangerous folks” out of the community and it’s making the communities less safe, because immigrants are afraid to work with local police when serious crimes are committed. Other municipalities around the country (Cook County, IL and Santa Clara, CA and more locally Takoma Park, Maryland) have refused to participate in Secure Communities program because of this and also because of the severe harm to families when parents are taken away from their children (citizens) still living in the U.S. Chief Manger said Secure Communities program has stated their goal was to get away from lesser/petty crimes causing deportations, and if they’re not following their goal that’s their problem. Uribe explained how DC recently narrowed its implementation to forward only those charged on serious crimes to ICE. Manger said his officers arrest if there is an “NCIC” (National Criminal Information Center) “hit” and he doesn’t want them to have to differentiate between civil detainers and criminal warrants. Manager said he doesn’t want his officers to be in business of deciding who to arrest – could lead to “selective enforcement, a slippery slope”. He said the deportation question should be ICE’s not MoCo’s.
There was a lot of back and forth on under what circumstances data and fingerprints were forwarded to feds in the past vs. today and Uribe tried to clarify that a “civil immigration” detainer “request” is optional, and that it’s not the same as criminal warrant. Goemann again attempted to press Manger for an answer on why his officers can’t make the distinction when DC officers can. Leggett said “we have a violent crime database”, and that “he’s asking Chief to advise him and that he’s in a wait and see mode because he understands Chiefs concerns about selective enforcement”. He wants to be “impacted by the numbers”, will continue to look at it to see deportation impacts on the county. He’s said publicly he doesn’t agree with Secure Communities but is not at this time prepared to say it’s time to change policy. Barnes said the problem is with their lack of discretion – ICE did deport the 400K people that they had the quota/budget to deport and that ICE isn’t telling the story of families ripped apart and citizen children left without parents. Barnes asked Manger if he’s met the Takoma Park Chief because in Takoma Park a municipal law forbids holding for ICE civil detainer requests. The law survived a challenge from Takoma’s Chief Ricucci in 2007 and Manager said yes he had. In Takoma Park they do not detain for ICE civil detainer requests – period. I was left wondering just how high the numbers need to go before Leggett will see that these are people, families and NOT just numbers.
To find out more about Secure Communities, including cities and towns that have rejected it and don’t want their police force acting as ICE accomplices see http://www.ndlon.org/en/. You can also get more information from ACLU and Casa de Maryland.
The last two topics on ACLU’s agenda, “Publish police policies on the police website” and “Civilian Review of Police” had to be deferred for another time due to constraints on time for Leggett. Mike Mage from ACLU reported that although these items were not included in latest negotiations with union (which already concluded) they can be brought up ad hoc during the contract period and Leggett agreed. At the ACLU chapter meeting last week, Mage shared the history of previous attempts to establish a “citizen review commission” brought by a broad coalition of groups. It initially had the support of the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) union since the original concept was to allow officers to bring complaints against department management. But after a while they backed off and the idea stalled, then went nowhere. Mage wants folks to discuss topic again with their organizations to determine if there is enough support and willingness to do the hard work it would take to revive this campaign. Today there is no public visibility/transparency in complaints lodged against county police officers. Mage says most if not all complaints are determined by Internal Affairs to be “without merit” or result in “officer was reprimanded” which is meaningless, nothing but a slap on the wrist. I personally agree that a civilian complaint review board is warranted, especially considering the broadening militarization of police forces, expanding grants and ties with DHS, JTTF, FBI, ICE, NSA, and the increasing police violence and deaths and injuries from Tasers, tear gas canisters, rubber bullets that we’re seeing all over the country. I’ll raise this topic at the next MCCRC monthly meeting on May 2nd.