Tucson Police Community Wide Immigration Information and Outreach

Tucson Police Community Wide Immigration Information and Outreach

In an effort to connect with and inform the community, the Tucson Police Department (TPD) will engage in a community wide dialogue utilizing a variety of media platforms such as Facebook, the TPD webpage, pamphlets in English and Spanish, and participation in meetings with members of the community.  This is in addition to TPD’s ongoing membership in the City of Tucson Immigrant Welcoming Task Force.

In concert with the recommendations from the City of Tucson Mayor & Council, TPD has made several changes in the operating procedures that govern immigration enforcement and reporting.  All of our policies are available online, and because of the intense interest this topic holds, we will make available on our website a link to a page that will gather all of those policies in one place.  In addition, we will establish a Frequently Asked Questions page that will address several concerns the community has about immigration law.  In the past 6 months TPD has re-written several general orders and instituted a data gathering process that allows anyone in our community to review the number of times TPD has engaged the US Border Patrol as required by SB 1070.

The goals of the TPD center on transparency and fairness, while at the same time adhering to the obligations of enforcing the laws put in place by the citizens of this state.  A fundamental focus in the outreach effort for TPD will be to educate our community on the scope as well as the limitations of SB 1070.  The perspective in the outreach plan will be cognizant of the polarizing effect that SB 1070 elicits from all sides of the political arena.  Irrespective of the Federal Government’s inability to effectively deal with immigration reform, the Tucson Police Department will embark on the mission of providing information and clarity to the Tucson community.  Whether they were intended or unintended, the effects of SB 1070 on the community and the police department are detrimental to a strong community/police relationship.

We will use this outreach plan as a vehicle to address many of the misperceptions that arise out of immigration law.  One of these myths is that many people still believe that they can be randomly stopped while walking the street and asked “for their papers”.  This is not only contrary to our policy but a violation of constitutional rights.  While a police officer can stop to talk with anyone about anything, they can not require documentation or identification except in very proscribed situations, such as when driving a vehicle or if the officer has stopped someone based upon reasonable suspicion that they are involved in criminal activity.  While this hotly contested phrase of "show me your papers" gains nationwide attention, it is not accurate and serves as a barrier to the TPD's community engagement efforts.  In addition, people hearing this kind of rhetoric may think they are not safe to report a crime for fear of being investigated for Federal immigration related violations.  This is the last thing that we would want to happen as that could lead to perceptions by criminals that certain people make better victims and targeting them presents less chance of apprehension.

Tucson Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor has been an outspoken critic of SB 1070 from the onset.  Chief Villaseñor was one of the first major city police chiefs to take a public stance against SB 1070 in the form of a federal declaration in 2010.  Chief Villaseñor has also met with several local immigrant advocacy groups, and attended the Arizona Speaks Assembly at the invitation of Bishop Kicanas, where he spoke about the negative effects of Arizona’s immigration law.  In addition, Chief Villaseñor was the host of an immigration forum for the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) where law enforcement leaders from across the country gathered in Tucson to talk about solutions borne out of the need to stay connected to our communities, despite the negative side effects of state mandated immigration laws.

It is important that when it comes to immigration reform, the TPD will not stop at the local level.  Chief Villaseñor has met with President Obama, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Jeh Johnson, and various other high ranking members of the President’s administration in an effort to find a path to solving the nation’s broken immigration system.  Chief Villaseñor's most recent efforts include a private meeting in Washington, D.C. with Gil Kerlikowske, the Commissioner of the US Customs and Border Patrol in August of 2014.  Chief Villaseñor along with a few other select members of the Major Cities Chiefs Association were asked to provide input to Commissioner Kerlikowske on the effects of immigration issues on local law enforcement.

Finally, beginning in October 2014, the TPD will bolster the basic training and advanced officer training modules in the area of bias based policing, utilizing a nationally recognized expert who has received great praise for the program she has developed.  Dr. Lori Fridell, former Director of Research for PERF, has received nationwide acclaim for her program entitled "Fair and Impartial Policing."  This program emphasizes that all humans have internal bias that must be taken into consideration when dealing with others.  Particularly when those interactions involve someone who is coming from a position of authority.

The Tucson Police Department takes the direction of Mayor and Council seriously in regard to addressing the impact of SB 1070 on the Tucson community, especially in regard to the relationship of the Police Department and the Community. More importantly, we value the relationship we have built over decades with many elements of our community, and we will continue to strive to maintain and improve that relationship, while at the same time fulfilling our obligation to enforce the law.